What actually got me started thinking about this top ten animals list was a documentary about the Snow Leopard, Uncia uncia. Two film-makers had spent three years in Kashmir and managed to get about two minutes of what of the kind of action footage you’d normally expect from a wildlife programme – the cats hunting, courting, and at their prey. Apart from a few shots of snow leopards walking through rocks, and film of the film makers not finding leopards, most of the rest of the hour-long documentary was filled out with footage taken by automatic cameras set up to be triggered by motion sensors. But the only places they could rely on the cats being were the sites where they marked their territories, so it was basically a whole hour of snow leopards pissing. Which they do surprisingly elegantly.
People just don’t see these animals. They live in incredibly inaccessible areas, they can have territories stretching hundreds of square miles, and even if you do happen to pass within a few hundred feet of one, they’re so well camouflaged for rocky terrain that you’ll probably not notice it.
Here’s a snow leopard in Mongolia:
Photo by Fritz Polking. Courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust, where you can also see some video of snow leopards.
I think that they’re also the most beautiful of the big cats. Look at the colouring! Look at the tail!