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A unique safari through Gilgit-Baltistan

Published Feb 21, 2011 12:05pm

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This file photo by AP shows a female snow leopard, Zoey, at the Central Park Zoo in New York. - Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: Tourists can now see snow leopards in their natural habitat on the sky-high mountainous terrains of Gilgit-Baltistan. An adventure safari provides an opportunity for tourists to visit the mighty mountains in the country's extreme north and capture fantastic scenes where these wild animals, also known as “big cats” by the locals, are found playing, hunting and relaxing.

This ambitious plan, carved out by Himalayan Holidays, an Islamabad-based tour operator, will help explore snow leopards, which are found in the dense forests at an altitude of 1,200 to 2,000 metres (3900 to 6600 feet).

“By organising this event we can entertain the visitors with not just wildlife, but also include tours of the serene valleys where tourists can witness diverse cultures, snow-clad mountainous peaks and gushing streams and rivers,” said Najib Ahmed Khan, owner of Himalayan Holidays.

Khan is determined that the spectacular event, besides attracting visitors from around the country, would help enthrall the tourists from across the world, boosting Pakistan's tourism industry.

“It is a unique move towards tapping into the country's endangered wildlife species and using our fascinating flora and fauna to promote tourism,” Najib said.

He, however, said focus would be on snow leopards as the wildlife sector had so far not figured in country's tourism activities.

The tour will take wildlife lovers from Islamabad to Gilgit, where the journey begins by a road trek to Ramghat via Partabpul and Bunji. A bar-b-que dinner at sunset on the Nanga Parbat will conclude day one.

Day two starts with a hike to Neelidar, going as high as about 600 metres in five hours to discover the big cats, roaming freely in their habitats.

Third day's hiking leads to Akalotamo where the local guides brief the visitors about places for filming of fantastic scenes of big cats. On day four, the group will be taken to the enchanting destination of Misikhandgah.

An individual snow leopard lives within a well-defined home range, but does not defend its territory aggressively when encroached upon by other big cats.

Like other cats, snow leopards use scent marks, scent to indicate their territory and common travel routes. Being most active at dawn and dusk they are known for their extreme secretive and well camouflaged nature.

The diet of the snow leopard also varies across its range and with the time of year, depending on prey availability. In the western Himalayas it preys mostly Himalayan blue sheep, Markhor, ibex and smaller prey consists of marmots, woolly hares and birds such as the snow cock and chukar. However, it is not averse to taking domestic livestock which brings it into direct conflict with humans.

Snow leopards have not been reported to attack humans, and appear to be among the least aggressive of all the big cats.

As a result, they are easily driven away from livestock, they readily abandon their kills when threatened and may not even defend themselves when attacked.

Snow leopards prefer to ambush prey from above, using broken terrain to conceal their approach, and can leap as far as 14 metres. They actively pursue prey down steep mountainsides, using the momentum of their initial leap to chase animals for up to 300 meters.

Estimated population of snow leopards in Pakistan is 420 to 500 with their habitat stretching over 80,000 square miles in Skardu, Astore Bunji (Nanga Parbat region), Khunjran Borogil and Chitral. – APP

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Comments (6) Closed



irtezaak Feb 21, 2011 10:22pm
The tour looks very good. But, unfortunately, no effort is made to encourage the local Pakistanis to take such tours. The chief reason is that such tours are too costly for an average Pakistani. I urge the authorities to target the Pakistanis when affixing the price of such packages. It is a shame that the local pakistanis are unable to see how beautiful their own country is.
John Feb 22, 2011 03:51am
Pakistanis are extremely cruel to wild life. They need a hunting ban and ban of making animals fight.
husain umar Feb 22, 2011 09:03am
how safe is it these days-from al-qaida and drone attacks. i did go as far as chitral back in '57. i beleive gilgit is not too far from there. no doubt it is so beautiful-a paradise on earth. i wish pakistan will become a peaceful country it use to be.
Fatima Feb 24, 2011 09:28am
Being from Gilgilt... i must want to appreciate this action and we still need to do a lot..... Mr. Husain... gilgit is a veri peaceful place, u will not face any such trouble there go and enjoy.
Roohi Feb 25, 2011 12:08am
@John, It's not just the Pakistani's who are cruel to wildlife. The Japanese HUNT numerous whales on an yearly basis,in India the tigers have been killed to such an extent that they are almost extinct. So when you talk about cruelty to animals please remember that it has been mankind in general that has been cruel to animals not Pakistani's alone. A hunting ban is desperately needed the WORLD OVER.
Arsalaan Mar 03, 2011 10:02am
I would be very much interested in taking this tour. Need a contact to get further info.