In a rare incident, four snow leopards have been spotted in a remote village of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) recently.
“The incident was reported by local people, who spotted the leopards seated on rocks in close proximity to each other and immediately informed the wildlife department,” said an official of World Wide Fund Muhammad Zafar on Monday.
He added that the leopards had been listed as endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
According to the villagers, the leopards remained in Doyan valley of Astore district for several hours and did not move even when some villagers pelted stones at them to check their reaction.
According to an official, this was an indication of sufficient food in the mountains.
He said the wild cats primarily hunt wild sheep and goats, but they are also known to eat rodents, hares and game birds.
Attacks on wildlife by leopards are frequently reported in G-B, with conservationists blaming scarcity of food for such occurrences.
Usually found at an altitude ranging from nearly 10,000 to 17,000 feet in rugged mountains, the total strength of snow leopards is believed to be between 7,000 and 10,000 in the world, out of which 3,000 are found in G-B.
According to the IUCN Red List, the population of snow leopards, Panthera uncia, is believed to have declined by at least 20 per cent over the past 16 years due to loss of habitat and hunting.
In 2004, conservation programmes in Doyan valley were introduced formally, when a community-based organisation - Doyan Valley Conservation and Development Organisation - was established by the wildlife department and non-governmental organisations. The community got its first trophy hunting permit in 2008-09.
G-B has an astonishing mountain ecosystem with some of the world’s highest summits, glaciers and alpine forests, which shelter a host of rare species including snow leopards, markhor, Marco Polo sheep and the Himalayan ibex.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2012.
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