The snow-covered mountains surrounding the Tibetan Plateau hold the largest store of permanent ice and permafrost outside the North and South Poles earning the nickname the Third Pole. Home to the endangered snow leopard, numerous nomadic cultures, and the headwaters of Asia's mightiest rivers, the treasures of these mighty mountains unite the many countries whose borders they cross. But the region, and all who depend on it, are at risk.

Through support from USAID, WWF has been working with governments, local communities, the Snow Leopard Trust, the Global Snow Leopard And Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), and other partners to address the challenges of conserving and building resilience for the snow leopard and its habitat in six landscapes across high Asia.
Explore the Landscapes
eastern nepal
Eastern Nepal

The habitat

Illegal wildlife trade, unsustainable practices, and rapid development put pressure on the fragile high mountain ecosystems, and climate change exacerbates these threats. To save the Third Pole we must work together, bridging gaps between snow leopard conservation, community engagement and climate adaptation. This GeoLab is a platform to help achieve that.
Guardian of the headwaters: Snow leopard habitat stretches across 2 million sq km of high Asia, including the sources for the 20 largest rivers in Asia.
Permafrost, frozen soil and rock, is very important in the landscape, helping grass grow in the warm season for snow leopard prey and livestock, and feeding rivers and streams.
Mountains & water: Asia's high mountains are home to more snow and ice than anywhere on the planet other than the poles, earning the nickname the "third pole".
Glaciers are the origins of many rivers downstream, but are melting in rapidly due to climate change.
Communities rely on these mountains for their livelihoods, from water to high altitude pasture lands for livestock grazing.
Monsoon & climate: summer rainfall is very important for providing water supplies, but it is less reliable now due to climate change.
Pastures are vital for millions of people across high Asia, providing fodder for livestock and snow leopard prey speces like Argali and Ibex.
Agriculture is the single most important source of income for people in high Asia.
Population: more than 3 billion people live in the basins of the major rivers that form in snow leopard habitat.
This website is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of WWF and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.