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Research brings elusive snow leopard a step closer

Community efforts give new hope for 'ghost of the mountains'

A rare snow leopard sighting in the northern Indian territory of Ladakh. Threatened by climate change and poachers, the big cats are endangered, with only an estimated 3,900 to 6,400 left in the world. (Courtesy of Behzad J. Larry)

PENANG -- My first and only encounter with the elusive Panthera uncia, better known as the snow leopard, was with a stiff and stuffed creature, wooden eyeballs pitted with bright red and blue glass, hanging from the ceiling of a gompa (Buddhist monastery) at 4,587 meters above sea level in Komik, a small village in the remote Spiti Valley bordering Tibet.

That experience was the opposite of the adventure I had imagined -- locking gazes with the beast in a snowy valley encased by barren peaks. But at least I had seen one, partially satisfying my fascination with the legendary creature.

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