GILGIT: Snow leopards launched a fresh attack on livestock in the Gojal valley on Tuesday night, killing several livestock, locals claimed.
The attack comes a week after locals had captured a female wildcat in the area. Locals had claimed that the leopard killed over 40 livestock in two months. The wildcat had been freed after hectic negotiations with the authorities and the assurance that the nine-years-old wildcat would be released several miles away in the Khunjerab National Park.
“Our goats have come under again attack yet again,” Mushtaq Ali, a Misgar resident, told media.
Snow leopard attacks livestock in Gilgit
“This time there were at least three snow leopards who killed eight goats and sheep,” claimed Ali, who was accompanied by three other villagers.
The villagers said that the recurring attacks by wildcats had spread fear and panic in the area, especially with respect to the safety of their livestock.
The authorities, however, disputed the number of livestock killed by the snow leopards. Instead, they said that two livestock had fallen prey to a fresh snow leopard attack.
“The figure of loss as claimed by the communities is exaggerated,” said an official of the wildlife department, who did not wish to be named.
“We visited the area and did not find anything which substantiated their [locals] claim. However there was a possibility the leopard may have killed one or two goats,” the official added.
The authorities also ruled out the possibility that the same snow leopard, who had been freed last week, could have returned to the area and launched a fresh attack.
When the snow leopard had been caught last week, the authorities had assured villagers that they would be provided compensation for the losses they had suffered through an NGO working on snow leopard conservation.
Locals were further told that two men from their area would be appointed as game watchers, in addition to opening the area for trophy hunting of the Himalayan Ibex.
However, the fresh attack has made local fearful of more attacks in the future.
“There has been a consensus [among the locals] that we will start a non-cooperation movement against the wildlife department over its conservation activities,” a local community member told The Express Tribune. “They have failed to protect us from the wild beast.”
Snow leopard forced to live in captivity in Gilgit-Baltistan
The threat of a non-cooperation movement has also perturbed the wildlife department.
“After the last incident, we deputed staff for vigilance,” Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Muhammad Akram told The Express Tribune. “There was also a mobile van with staff to help communities keep the wildcat at bay.”
He added that the department was doing what they could to ensure the safety of both, the endangered snow leopard and the local communities.
“We hope that the people understand this and support us in our efforts for conservation.”
Snow leopards have been categorised as a threatened species with the small and fragmented population of snow leopards estimated to be between 200-400 in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2017.