To mark the 40th anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has taken on sponsorship of two young snow leopards. The twin cubs were born in early May 2016 at the zoo in Neunkirchen in Saarland. With the start of the sponsorship, the twin cubs were also given names: they are called Anusha and Askar. Minister Hendricks remarked: “I decided to call them Anusha and Askar as these names are a reminder of the species’ home and habitat, Central Asia. Snow leopards are a fascinating species; they are skilled survivors in cold habitats of snow and rock. However, we humans have pushed them to the brink of extinction. It is now high time we take measures to secure their future. The snow leopard siblings represent many other endangered species across the world under threat from poaching and illegal trade in wildlife.”
Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) launched a contest to find suitable names for the cubs. A selection of the most popular suggestions was put together, from which Minister Hendricks then chose the names Anusha (which means “beautiful morning” or “star) and Askar (which means “snowy mountain”).
Snow leopards live in the high mountainous regions in Central Asia and are among the species included on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There are only between 4000 and 6400 of these big cats left roaming the barren landscape at the Roof of the World. They are poached for their valuable fur, and their bones are illegally traded for use in traditional Asian medicine. The decline of the snow leopard is further exacerbated by shepherds who hunt them to protect their grazing livestock, the destruction of their natural habitat and the increasing impacts of climate change.
The BMUB is working hard at global level to combat poaching and professionally organised trafficking in wildlife products. To counteract these trends, the BMUB is supporting projects in Africa and Asia with a total of three million euros. This ensures, for example, that financing is provided to improve the monitoring of animals in protected areas such as national parks. Conservation breeding in zoos plays an important role alongside the protection of wild snow leopards. With its four snow leopards, the Neunkirchen Zoo is part of the European Endangered Species Programme established in 1985. The programme manages approximately 200 snow leopards in 90 zoos and animal parks.