MUZAFFARABAD: Wildlife guards on Friday seized the body of a near-threatened species of leopard in the Neelum Valley in Azad Kashmir (AJK) after a resident informed them about the dead animal.

The common leopard, zoologically known as Panthera pardus, bore marks of fresh wounds on its belly which were believed to have caused its death, they said.

Gohar Rehman, a local lawyer, called the wildlife guards in Athmuqam, the district headquarters of the Neelum Valley, after he spotted the body in a water channel close to his home in Ashkot village.

Raja Jameed, one of the guards, told Dawn that it appeared that the carnivore had fallen from a height after losing its balance because one of its front legs was severed. “Presumably, the animal had stepped on a landmine and got its leg torn off sometime back,” he said.

“Though that wound had healed, obviously the missing limb had affected its proverbial speedy movement and that would have made him fall from the hill,” he added.

Naeem Iftikhar Dar, director of the AJK wildlife and fisheries department, said a post-mortem examination of the animal had been conducted by a veterinary doctor in Athmuqam and its report will be provided on Saturday.

Neelum Valley runs along the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC) that splits the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between Pakistan and India.

An electric fence built by Indian authorities in 2007 marks the dividing line, the area around which is also dotted with landmines – all contributing to disturbance of the wildlife habitat and proliferation, according to Mr Dar.

The Red List of ‘Threatened Species’ compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies Panthera pardus as a “near threatened” species.

The species is found in the mountains of Kashmir, the Murree hills and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Although the IUCN Red List states that their population is decreasing, AJK wildlife officials claim that indirect evidence has shown that it has increased in AJK over the past decade.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2018

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