CHENGDU, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Four snow leopards were spotted by an infrared camera in a nature reserve that is a major habitat for giant pandas, the administration of the reserve in southwest China's Sichuan Province said Thursday.
The camera captured the snow leopard family, including three cubs and their mother, at an altitude of about 3,800 meters in Wolong National Nature Reserve in December 2018.
This is the second time the reserve has spotted a leopard family after images of another leopard family were shot in August 2017.
The videos show that the mother was on her way to a natural shelter in the snowfield, where boulders were piled up, and stopped to sniff the rocks. Her three cubs followed. Three days later, in the evening, the family returned to the shelter, where the mother marked the place by digging holes with hind legs.
The cubs are nearly one year old, which is a good time to learn survival skills, said Li Sheng, a researcher with the School of Life Sciences at Peking University.
Snow leopards are solitary animals that leave their mothers to live independently around the age of one and a half to two years.
Snow leopards often give birth to two to four cubs at a time. It is common for one mother to raise two cubs and the family with three cubs is quite rare.
The straight-line distance between the places where the two snow leopard families were spotted is only about 13 km and thus it is possible that the two families share a similar range of activities, said Duan Zhaogang, Party secretary of the reserve administration.
The findings also suggest that snow leopards in Wolong have abundant food sources and good living conditions, Duan said.
Snow leopards are a Class A protected animal in China and are classified as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They live in the Himalayas in central and south Asia at an altitude of 2,500 to 4,500 meters.