Snow leopards have been prowling the mountains from Kazakhstan to Bhutan for ages, but these days their numbers are dropping dramatically due to a rather unexpected factor: an increased demand in cashmere.
To compensate for the higher sales, nomadic goat herders are expanding their stock at the expense of the snow leopard. The exponential growth of goat herds is resulting in a sharp decrease in local vegetation, which feeds the herbivores that the snow leopards prey on. The big cats are then forced to find food elsewhere and are often driven to preying on livestock.
This predatory behavior, of course, angers the livestock herders. Retaliatory killing is one of the main threats snow leopards face. Poaching and mining are also significant threats, poaching for obvious reasons and mining because of the toxic chemicals used.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to kickstart a snow leopard recovery without damaging the livelihood of the herders. Economic diversification could mean less dependence on livestock and reducing the size of the herds will allow for a gradual reversal of habitat loss.