ULAN BATOR, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Poaching of the endangered snow leopards is increasing in Mongolia as their bones may be used as substitutes for tiger's in traditional Asian medicine markets, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Mongolia director said Friday.
"Poaching is one of the major threats to snow leopards in Mongolia," Dorjgurkhem Batbold told Xinhua, saying four such cases have been recorded this year.
Previously, the country recorded one or two such cases per year connected with the snow leopard fur trade only, said Batbold.
"The recent rise in snow leopard illegal hunting in Mongolia may be related to the much increased and improved tiger conservation efforts in all tiger range countries," Batbold said, adding that carcasses and bones of snow leopards may be used as substitutes for those of tigers in traditional Asian medicine.
He stressed that the Mongolian government should work closely with other countries to stop illegal hunting of the endangered animal.
In addition, conflict between local herders and snow leopards is another concern for WWF experts, according to Batbold.
"Local herders sometimes kill snow leopards in retaliation for attacking their livestock using different tools including steel-jaw traps," Batbold said.
Experts have been taking various measures to handle the conflict, including asking local herders to hand in traps in exchange for household utensils, he added.
WWF experts are working in 12 mountains in Mongolia to determine the population and distribution of snow leopards, and explore ways to protect them, said the director.
It is estimated that only 800 to 1,200 snow leopards remain in Mongolia, while the exact figure of the elusive animal is difficult to determine.