CHITRAL, Jan 26: Snow leopard was spotted in the forests near Bakamak and Shali villages in Chitral district on Wednesday and Thursday after long disappearance.

An official of the local wildlife department told Dawn on Thursday that the big cat appeared near Bakamak and Shali areas but heavy snowfall forced it into moving to Toshi game reserve at lower altitude.

He said snow leopard hadn’t been seen in the area over the last two years amidst fears about its extinction.

People thronged the Garam Chashma Road to catch a glimpse of the leopard.

The wildlife department official said the big cat descended to the areas of low altitudes in search of food after heavy snow in forests and high mountains and that small animals, including markhor and ibex, were its cherished food.

People fear attacks on them and their livestock by the big cat, especially at nighttime.

Ejaz Ahmad, a biodiversity specialist, said snow leopard lived in areas alongside Hindu Kush range of mountains.

He said leopard was declared an endangered specie in the recent past but its population density later surged satisfactorily.

Mr Ejaz said massive grazing in alpine rangeland, human conflicts, climatic change and decline in snowfall had led to reduction in the number of leopards. He said WWF had launched a snow leopard welfare project in some Chitral villages.

Meanwhile, Dinar Shah, in his eighties and from Seen village, said previously, people used to guard their families and livestock at nighttime but installation of bulbs around the village had curtailed leopard attacks.

He said leopard’s attacks on people were very rare as it targeted livestock, especially goats, only. He said the former Chitral rulers banned leopard killing but lifted the ban in view of growing cases of its attacks on livestock.

Some regretted that leopard was poached in the area for skin, which had a great demand in national and international market, without let or hindrance. They demanded registration of cases against leopard poachers.

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