Large herd of Himalayan ibex filmed in Hunza valley

Published January 14, 2021
A group of ibex photographed in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Khyber valley.
A group of ibex photographed in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Khyber valley.

KARACHI: A rare sighting of about 50 Himalayan ibex, including females with their young ones, was recently recorded near the Passu glacier in Hunza valley, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) reported on Wednesday.

The footage was captured in the Khyber village by Nyal Mueenuddin, a wildlife film-maker associated with WWF-P, and Imtiaz Ahmed, a local photographer, who were filming Passu glacier’s ecology and associated habitat.

The team came across ibex tracks down the precipitous mountain ridges. The species can be found at an altitude of about 3,660 to over 5,000 metres and usually comes down to 2,135 metres due to snow and in search of food in the winter season.

“The presence of such a large number of Himalayan ibex in the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region indicates a healthy ecosystem that can support large predators such as snow leopards, lynx and wolves,” said Rab Nawaz, senior director programmes at WWF-P, adding that the organization had been engaged in conservation efforts in the region for a long time.

‘The presence of such a large number of ibex in the Gilgit-Baltistan region indicates a healthy ecosystem’

The ibex population, according to the organisation, faces numerous threats across its range in Pakistan, from habitat loss to illegal hunting, climate change, and lack of awareness about the species.

However, as a result of the community’s efforts in this region, as well as efforts of local guards and GB wildlife department, their population is seen to be increasing.

“When it comes to filming wildlife, one thing which is of paramount importance is the photographer’s patience. He or she must not get discouraged by harsh weather conditions or difficult terrain. My message is that we should do as much as we can to protect the beautiful wildlife in these areas so that our next generation can witness and experience their existence,” said Imtiaz Ahmed.

The WWF-P initiated a research-based project in the Bar valley, Nagar district, Gilgit-Baltistan in 1990 with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme to protect the Himalayan ibex, its associated wildlife species and their habitat.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed with communities and Gilgit-Baltistan Parks and Wildlife Department, which specified that the locals would protect their natural resources, especially the ibex population.

“As the recent footage indicates, these initiatives yielded positive results. Further interventions continue to be implemented to not only change human attitudes towards wildlife protection but also to reduce human-wildlife conflict,” said Rab Nawaz.

The film, which can be accessed on WWF-Pakistan’s YouTube channel, documents the team’s rare sighting and also highlights the efforts taken behind the lens to film the ibex.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2021

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