How a Tailless Snow Leopard Inspires Hope

From the Desk of Deputy Director, Marissa Niranjan: Towards the end of 2020, I received an email from our wonderful Grant Writer, Deborah Turnbull, who combs through all our research camera photos looking for the best options for reports and outreach materials. The subject read, “Tailless snow leopard, Nemegt Mongolia.”

Of course, I had to click on it right away, as that is not something you see every day. Deborah also forwarded the photos to our Assistant Director of Science, Dr. Gustaf Samelius. He replied that the snow leopard looked healthy and that “animals never stop surprising us.” 

When the image loaded on my computer, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It struck me how symbolic that photo was of everything we were facing and continue to face in the world.

This cat quickly became a beacon of resilience for our team and our supporters. It embodied the idea that even as many of us found ourselves without the very things that brought us balance and stability, the signature attributes that anchored us and made us who we are, we could still adapt and figure out how to navigate the evolving landscape.

Just a few days ago, Deborah sent another exciting update that she had found the tailless snow leopard again on a new sequence of camera data from Nemegt. Upon seeing it, I exhaled. One of the many breaths I have held for far too long without even knowing it. 

Again, I looked at the images for a very long time and marveled at the hope they signified. 

While we don’t know how this male snow leopard lost his tail, we do know his ability to survive and adapt proves how resilient snow leopards can be. And that gives us hope. 

I also feel hopeful as I witness the incredible support that streams in from across the globe. We read every comment and each message of solidarity. From Rachel, who donated in honor of her dad, who used to ‘love watching cats be cats’ to Sebby, whose dream is to study Zoology and one day work with these amazing animals, your support provides a window into your lives and passions. And it is our honor, alongside our partners and local community members, to give you a window into the world of these big cats.     

Hope can sometimes be found in the most surprising places, even in a photo of a snow leopard without a tail. This shared hope makes conservation leaders of us all. Together we can ensure a future for this majestic big cat.

As Gustaf said, “Animals – and I would add ‘people’ – never stop surprising us.”

What gives you hope for snow leopards? Leave us a comment and let us know.


  1. It’s amazing how animals adapt in the face of adversity. Snow leopards rely, usually, on their tails for balance in all sorts of situations but this one has survived and thrived without his. Hopefully he will continue to do so for many more years ❤.

  2. Absolutely great strides by this resilient snow leopard. I am sad that the tail was lost, but the fact that this cat survived and looks very healthy is mind-boggling! Thank you all for your selflessness for helping them survive and for educating the locals so they can co-exist in peace.

  3. My heart reverberates for all these purrrecious creations! I imagine it won’t be easy for him to procreate due to the abnormality -which makes my heart ache- hopefully the ability to adapt/surthrive will trump any physical ailments and a mate will come forward to love and nurture this fascinating beauty.

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