Snow leopards are hunted to satisfy illegal demand for their pelts. A snow leopard coat can fetch US$20,000 in the black market. Very little is known about the ecology of these animals. There may be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left. According to the World Wildlife Fund, at least four of these cats are killed every week.
By 1970 the snow leopard had already become rare due to hunting for fur and as a trophy, persecution as a livestock predator, and loss of prey. Currently, it has a fragmented distribution, consisting of a mix of long narrow mountain systems and islands of montane habitat scattered throughout a vast region surrounding the central Asian deserts and plateaus. An estimated 4,000 to 7,000 snow leopards remain in 12 countries across central Asia.
Uncia uncia is considered as "Endangered" by the IUCN Red List. CITES lists the species as "Appendix 1".