Do the mountains touch the stars?
Tell me, child of the skylands,
how to balance on the glittering surface of time—
awakening the stillness,
transforming the silence
into answered prayer.
The snow leopard is found only in the mountains of Central Asia. Expanding populations in this harsh habitat compete for the same food sources. Although they are one of the least aggressive big cats, snow leopards kill livestock and are trapped in retaliation. They are also killed by poachers for their pelts and bones, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Only 5000-7000 remain in the wild.
Traditional cultures of their habitats consider the snow leopard to be a shapeshifter, a mountain spirit that serves as a guide between worlds. In Tibet they are sacred, existing as vessels to remove the sins of past lives. Anyone who kills one of these creatures is forced to take on the burden of those sins as their own.
They have huge paws and tails, which help them to balance on the snow in the rugged terrain of the mountains.
For earthweal, where Sherry has asked us to consider the earth’s dwindling populations of big cats.