The Snow leopard (Pantherea uncia) is a large carnivore found in the high mountains of Central and Southern Asia.
Often referred to as an elusive and secretive species, the Snow leopard was listed as “Endangered” in 1972 until 2017 when it was reassessed as “Vulnerable” under the IUCN Red List. This change in status was based on a lack of data. Despite the reassessment the population is still listed as in decline.
As a key component of risk assessment for import into Tasmania, conventional climate modelling was applied to compare the state’s environment with the species’ natural range.
CLIMATCH revealed “very low” potential for suitable habitat across the entire state of Tasmania. The assessment group concluded that Climatch modelling less reflective of Snow leopard habitat suitable.
The Snow leopard is classified as “suitable for live import (into Australia) with an import permit” (EPBC Act 1999), noting that it is currently listed under the name Uncia uncia. Formerly this species was placed in the genus Uncia but it is now assigned to Panthera according to genetic analysis (IUCN).
The Snow leopard is protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) against over-exploitation through international trade and listed in Appendix I (the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants).
The risk assessment determined the Snow leopard as moderately dangerous to humans, having a low establishment risk and with a high consequence of establishment. It is therefore been assigned to a ‘serious risk’ category.
The Department will consider permitting the importation of animals assessed as ‘serious risk’ into the State, as long as appropriate mitigation measures can be identified and applied.
Mitigation options to reduce the risk associated with importing Snow leopard include:
Limiting importation to registered wildlife parks or zoos to ensure the holding facility meets the stringent keeping standards Tasmania applies to all institutions.
Requiring any wildlife park or zoo to submit a Snow leopard species management plan (including enclosure details) prior to import.
The wildlife exhibition facility can clearly demonstrate they have proficient keepers for that particular species.