Pakistan to lead global initiative to save snow leopard

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There is little information and research done on one of the most elusive predators in the world.—AP/File
There is little information and research done on one of the most elusive predators in the world.—AP/File

ISLAMABAD: A dozen countries have supported Pakistan to lead the global initiative for protection of dwindling population of snow leopard.

Ministers, bureaucrats and conservation organisations from 12 countries including Russia and China had voted for Minister of Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan as chairman of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) programme, at its first steering committee meeting held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on March 20.

Take a look: Mushahidullah elected chairman of snow leopard protection group

“We saw unprecedented support from Central Asian countries, Bhutan, Nepal and India among other nations for saving the dwindling population of the precious species.

We will make the best of this support,” said the minister at a press briefing to share the news here on Friday.

“It’s a huge task. We will bring all the conservationists and wildlife specialists together to make use of their expertise. There is little information and research done on one of the most elusive predators in the world,” Mushahidullah Khan told the mediapersons.

He said about 4,000 and 6,000 leopards were found in these 12 countries including Central Asian States, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan and India while Pakistan had 200 to 400 that roamed from the Hindukush, Karakuram and Himalayan ranges in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

“The exact numbers are not known. The beautiful animal is the favourite and easy prey for shepherds.

Loss of habitat is another reason for their shrinking population,” said the minister said.

Describing the snow leopard as an integral part of biodiversity and natural beauty, the minister shared some initiatives such as getting provincial governments on board, which he described as a challenge.

“We will work for a common goal. Establishing a national steering committee, setting up cells in provinces and working on transboundry issues for free movement of the animal between Pakistan, Afghanistan and India are some of the other challenges that we will take up to ensure survival rates of the beautiful cat,” said the minister.

He said in 2006, the first ever global positioning system (GPS) collar was fitted on a snow leopard in Chitral to study the extent of its home range, habitat use and movements.

In 14 months, the collared snow leopard traversed more than 1, 500 square kilometers between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to the minister, this new information underscored the critical need for international cooperation to protect the beast.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2015

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