A wild baby snow leopard was caught on film dubiously inspecting a camera trap high in the Himalayas, providing what may be the first-ever footage of a snow leopard cub in the wild.
Filmed over 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) high in Bhutan's mountains, the cute little critter walks right up to the camera trap set by a BBC Natural History film crew, inspects and sniffs the lens before disappearing back into the mountain landscape. [Video at BBC]
"No wonder hardly anyone sees snow leopards, they are just so well camouflaged. You could literally walk 4 meters past one and not notice," said BBC wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, who took the images.
Buchanan believes the cub's mother had left it near or in front of the camera trap while she went off hunting.
"It is one of the most exquisite looking animals I have ever seen," Buchanan told the BBC.
Snow leopards are the highest living of all big cats , and are among the most rare and elusive of all animals. Snow leopards live between 9,800 and 18,000 feet (3,000 and 5,500 meters) above sea level in the mountain ranges of Central Asia.
Snow leopards are among the world's most endangered big cats, but due to their elusive nature their exact number is unknown. Estimates vary, suggesting that between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards survive in the wild.
The camera trap 's footage of the young snow leopard will be broadcast this week as part of the BBC One program "Lost Land of the Tiger."