Hostage to demands: Snow leopard released after protracted talks

Residents captured wildcat after it killed dozens of their livestock


Shabbir Mir February 25, 2017
According to a study by WWF-Pakistan, warmer temperatures are shrinking the snow leopard habitat, pushing it towards extinction every day. With on top of food-chain, the remaining small and fragmented population of snow leopard is estimated to be between 200-400 in Pakistan. PHOTO: SHABBIR MIR/EXPRESS

GILGIT: A snow leopard has been released by residents of Gilgit-Baltistan's Gojal valley after prolonged negotiations with wildlife authorities.

Villagers captured the female snow leopard in the Misgar area of Gojal valley four days back after it killed dozens of livestock over the past two months.

Endangered species: Villagers catch snow leopard alive

The endangered feline was nonetheless released back into the wild on Friday by local wildlife authorities in Khunjerab area.

Capture

''It took two weeks to capture the cat,'' Karamatullah, a local conservation committee member said. ''We prepared a trap by placing two goats as bait to lure the cat in,'' he told reporters on Saturday.

PHOTO: SHABBI MIR

''Its safety was our chief priority owing to the wild cat being an endangered species,'' he said, adding that the animal killed over 45  livestock animals in January and February of this year alone.

Karamataullah said that the local communities had deputed two men to keep an eye on the wild cat. He said that the deputed men tracked the predator for a two-week period before successfully capturing it.

“We pulled the string as it entered the trap to attack the goats,” said Karamat. “We captured it but lost two goats in the process,” he added.

Prolonged negotiations

Once captured, residents debated what to do with the leopard. Sources told The Express Tribune that the community did not initially inform the government about the capture.

Stranded snow leopard rescued in Naltar

“We could not kill it, of course, as it is an endangered species but we could strike a bargain with the government to compensate the loss it caused to us during these two months,” the source said.

Nonetheless, wildlife authorities received information on the whereabouts of the snow leopard and a designated team reached the spot the following day.

The locals, at first, refused to release the leopard, stating it would attack the livestock once more.

PHOTO: SHABBI MIR

Negotiations took place between the local community and a joint team comprising of Wildlife Conservator Ghulam Muhammad, Wildlife DFO, and representatives of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The locals demanded compensation along with the appointment of game watchers for their area. Furthermore, they also called for an increase in the Himalayan Ibex quota for trophy hunting.

The following day, negotiators agreed to appoint one or two game watchers ‘subject to availability of funds’. Similarly, they agreed to increase in the aforementioned quota for the next trophy hunting season.

“The local community remained adamant that more of their demands must be met,'' the source said. Consequently, the talks failed and the wildlife authorities lodged a complaint with the local police station.

Snow leopard forced to live in captivity in Gilgit-Baltistan

As a result, a police team reached the scene and took the snow leopard into their custody after which it was handed over to the concerned authorities.

Succumbing to pressure the local community agreed to what had been previously offered by the wildlife officials.

Subsequently, the wild cat was released in Khunjerab National Park, miles away from the Misgar area, to ensure it does not return to the local area.

COMMENTS (1)

Umar | 4 years ago | Reply We go and choose to build our homes in the middle of wildlife areas. And then we demand all the animals that have lived there for thousands of years to be killed.
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