Current reports from The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) show that the snow leopard population has increased to at least 4,000 over the recent years. With numbers like this, the IUCN had no choice but to lower the threat level for this majestic cat from "endangered" down to "vulnerable." The organization is responsible for assessing the wellbeing of wildlife populations all over the world. The removal of the snow leopard from the Endangered Species List was not taken lightly and does not mean that the animal is completely in the clear.

The decline of the snow leopard

Since the 1970's, scientists have been concerned with the welfare of the enigmatic snow leopard. Hunted to near extinction for their furs, the snow leopard population in the Himalayas was nearing devastation. The Endangered Species Act, signed into action by President Nixon is 1973, managed to prevent the extinction of the snow leopard. Since being unanimously voted on and signed into action, the Endangered Species Act has managed to save 227 species that would have otherwise become extinct by 2006.

Although it is good news that the snow leopard population has begun to recover, their numbers are still declining. Their dwindling numbers have slowed significantly, allowing the population to grow to 4,000 adult Snow Leopards.

Due to their remote location, it is very difficult for researchers to study these big cats. New technology and camera equipment has helped scientists in gaining crucial information about these elusive creatures.

In order to remain on the endangered species list, there should be fewer than 2,500 adult snow leopards in the wild.

They must also be experiencing a high rate of decline. While researchers estimate that they are still declining in numbers, the rate has slowed enough for them to be removed from the list.

Other de-listed animals

This year has proven to be quite eventful for many animals listed on the endangered species list. Manatees in Florida were recently demoted from "endangered" to "threatened." Also taken off the list this year was the Yellowstone grizzly bear.

The removal of the protections covering the grizzly bears of Yellowstone came as a great shock for many conservationists. With only 700 grizzly bears in Yellowstone, the Western Environmental Law Center believes that the decision to remove the bears from the list was a political one.

As for the snow leopards remaining in the Himalayas, environmentalists worry about the consequences of removing conservation protections from them. This elusive cat was once hunted to near extinction, and scientists fear that history may repeat itself once again.