The ounce or the snow leopard (in Latin Uncia uncia, according to the other classification - Panthera uncia) - a large predatory mammal of the cat family inhabiting in the mountain ranges of Central Asia. The ounce is distinguished by a thin, long and flexible body, and relatively short paws, a small head and a very long tail. Being 200-230 cm long including a tail, it weighs up to 55 kg. The color of its fur is light, smoky-gray with annular and continuous dark spots.
Due to the inaccessibility of the habitat and low specimen density, many aspects of its biology have been still poorly researched. Currently, the ounce population level is catastrophically low - in 2003, the specimen population was 4 to 7 thousand of species according to various estimates. In the XX century, it was red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and by Russia, and was included in the protection documents of other countries as well. As of 2015, the hunting for ounces is prohibited.
Symbol of nomads
The word “ounce” was adopted by Russian merchants-furriers adopted from Turkic hunters as far back as in the XVII century. In Tuva, the beast was called irbish, in the Semirechye it was called Ilbers, to the east of Alma-Ata in the regions bordering China - irviz, and it is called irves in the Mongolian language and irbiz in the Turkic language. The word also took roots in Russian, only the last letter changed from “з” to “с” in the course of time.
At present, the snow leopard population is catastrophically low. The illegal but financially attractive hunting for snow leopard fur has significantly reduced the snow leopard population. In all countries where its range is located, the snow leopard is protected by the state but the poaching still threatens it. The snow leopard is a rare, numerically insignificant endangered species. It is red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (2000) as “endangered” (the highest Protection Category EN C2A). In the Red Book of Mongolia (1997), the specimen was assigned the status of “very rare” and in the Red Book
of the Russian Federation (2001) – “endangered species at the limit of the range” (Category I). In addition, the snow leopard is entered in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It should, however, be noted that all the said environmental acts and documents create only a legal framework that is implemented poorly at the local level as evidenced by an increase in the level of the poaching and smuggling. At the same time, there are no programs aimed at the long-term preservation of the snow leopard.