CHITRAL: The snow leopard has not been seen in its natural habitat at Toshi Shaha conservancy and Chitral Gol National Park (CGNP) since 2013.
The people used to flock the Toshi pastures located on Garam-Chashma Road in February to spot the wildcat resting in the foothills on the other side of the river near the Chitral town.
The animal descended on the lower areas in search of food when the forests and high mountains received heavy snow, pouncing on Markhor and ibex.
Shafiqullah Khan, regional programme manager of Pakistan Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (PSLEP), confirmed the disappearance of the wildcat from the vicinity of the town, and said it was last sighted in 2013.
He said the animal had a wide home range extending from Torkhow and Terich valleys in upper Chitral to the Nooristan area of Afghanistan along the Hindukush range.
Mr Khan said the presence of snow leopard in Lonkoh Terich was detected through camera trapping in 2015. However, he said paw marks of the wildcat in Koghuzi and Mori areas in lower Chitral showed its presence in the district.
Jaffaruddin, deputy director of Islamabad-based Snow Leopard Foundation, said the sighting of common leopard and lynx in CGNP and Toshi area near the Chitral town during the past three to five years suggested the departure of snow leopard from lower Chitral.
He said common leopard and lynx arrived in an ecological area when the snow leopard deserted the place for good due to climate change phenomenon. He said the snow leopard might have moved to seek habitation in higher altitudes.
He said only camera trapping, which had been banned over security reasons, could spot the highly elusive animal which camouflaged itself easily. He said PSLEP was launched to carry out community-based activities in proximity to the known habitats of the wild animal with a view to preserving the endangered species.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020