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ISLAMABAD: Conservationists, academics, community activists and policymakers unanimously called for integrated approach and coordinated efforts to protecting habitats of endangered species such as snow leopard in Karakoram-Pamir, Himalaya and Hindukush regions.

They were speaking at an inception workshop for Pakistan Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (PSLEP) at a local hotel on Thursday.

They suggested measures for the conservation of the critically endangered species while addressing land management and socio-economic and cultural issues in the mountain regions, including involvement of local communities, awareness among them about the endangered species, and using modern tools in the conservation programme.

They pointed out flaws such as overlapping, duplication and wastage of resources in management plans of national parks and game reserve areas.

Those who spoke on the occasion included Climate Change Secretary Khizer Hayat Khan, inspector general forest from the climate change ministry Syed Mahmood Nasir and UNDP Country Head Ignacio Artaza, noted conservationist and adviser to the Snow Leopard Foundation Ashiq Ahmed and SLF country head Dr Ali Nawaz.

The SLF country head presented the $4.6 million project that will be implemented in five years (2018-2023), its background, goals, structure, and results framework.

The fund is being provided by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) Trust Fund and implemented by the Snow Leopard Foundation in Karakoram-Pamir, Himalaya and Hindu Kush mountain ranges in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

UNDP assistant director Usman Manzoor gave a presentation on the UNDP-GEF monitoring and evaluation requirements, risk management and how to cope with the situation.

He highlighted seven management risk categories - environmental, political, operational, organisational, financial, regulatory and statistics – and how to tackle and minimise those risks by adaptive methods.

Jaffarduddin of the foundation presented a work plan for 2018.

The snow leopards’ habitats in Pakistan are at a serious risk of vanishing as glaciers are rapidly melting because of global warming-induced climate change impacts.

The participants highlighted the unique habitat of the snow leopard, the associated biodiversity, and the communities dwelling in the high mountains that depend on their ecosystems and stressed sustainable development.

Responding to a question about the fate of Leo, a snow leopard cub that was rescued from Naltar in 2004 and shifted to Bronx Zoo in California, Ashiq Ahmed said he was unaware of it and stressed that the animal should be brought back to Pakistan.

The snow leopard is found in 12 countries - Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Around 3,000 to 7,000 snow leopards survive in the nearly two million square km within these 12 countries and is provided with the highest level of protection by the local law as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The snow leopard range in Pakistan spreads across 80,000 square km in the Hindu Kush, Pamir, Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges.An estimated 200 to 420 snow leopards exist in the mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and KP.

The second International Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Forum in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, in August 2017 had renewed commitment to intensify efforts for the protection of the endangered animal and their ecosystems.

The participating countries in the ‘Bishkek Declaration 2017’ had expressed their determination topreserve snow leopard population and to ensure the cultural, social and economic well-being of mountain people.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018