Wildlife experts and diplomats at a documentary screening event called for steps to protect the endangered species and their habitat.
They were speaking during a lively two-hour panel discussion on the BBC documentary “Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth” at the Animal Sciences Department of Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) held in connection with World Conservation Day, on Wednesday . The documentary has been made by Nisar Malik in northern Pakistan.
“This film tells the snow leopard’s real story, a story of interaction and at times conflict between humans and animals,” said US envoy Richard Olson. The ambassador announced two new projects for wildlife conservation in Pakistan on the occasion.
The USAID-funded programme with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Snow Leopard Trust that will improve cooperation among Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Nepal on protecting snow leopards and climate change adaptation in Asia’s high mountains.
This is in addition to the Ambassador’s Fund in Pakistan which will focus on wildlife conservation projects in local communities.
Muhammad Ali Nawaz from the Department of Animal Sciences of the university said, “During our research and conservation project in the northern areas, we put a GPS collar on snow leopards to monitor their movement. Their population ranges from 200 to 400, and their habitat extends over 16,000km, divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In addition to the creature’s endangered status, Nawaz noted, pastoral communities living in the region lose livestock to the snow leopard for which they were working on a compensation system.
“More livestock succumb to disease than snow leopard attacks, that’s why we introduced vaccination to make up for the animals lost to snow leopards, which results in the communities being more tolerant of them,” explained Nawaz.
He said climate change, scarcity of food and loss of habitat force snow leopards to prey on domesticated animals which highlights the need for conservation.
In a coordinated attempt to give a cub a fighting chance for survival, an orphaned snow leopard, Leo, was handed over to Bronx Zoo in 2006, since it was too young to survive on its own in the wild.
QAU vice-chancellor concluded that wildlife conservation benefits local communities and that the country should divert its attention towards wildlife-related recreation to boost tourism and GDP.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2012.