Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rise in Pakistan's Snow Leopard Population

Snow leopard

Recently, Pakistan has witnessed a rise in its native snow leopard population from the town of Bunji after a series of initiatives taken couple years ago. Although no radio collar study was carried out due to lack of resources, eleven villagers claimed that they had seen the animals at a safe distance. According to accounts by wildlife experts, the area's snow leopard population has increased up to fifty to sixty animals compared to nearly thirty some years back. Initially, experts stated that the decrease in snow leopard population was a result of decline in the local markhor population. This wild relative of a goat is a favorite prey of the snow leopard, and Pakistan's national animal. And due to decrease in its population, the leopards began to find it hard to look for food. After interacting with the locals, experts revealed that they have begun monitoring the mountainous areas to keep a sharp lookout for poachers involved in killing of snow leopards and their prey. According to Ashfaqur Rehman, a banker in Bunji, two poachers were caught by the village watchmen and handed over to the police. He further added that the villagers will increase their monitoring mechanism in coming months, since snow leopard cubs are born between April and June. In addition to that, Islamabad-based tour operator Najeeb Ahmad Khan stated that he was quite optimistic and hoped to start his safari expedition again after it was shelved due to the decline in leopard and markhor populations in the past.

I'm extremely happy and proud to see what the local people living in Pakistan's northern mountainous areas have been doing regarding the local snow leopard populations. They have been collaborating with the authorities by keeping vigil for any poachers, and handing them over to law enforcement after catching them. It is amazing to see how a community that lives alongside a mysterious hunter of the high snows can actually help it, rather than kill it for fearing that it would attempt to steal the livestock. I feel that the work done by the people of Bunji are a perfect example of how regular people can help save and protect their wild neighbors. Snow leopards are also native up further north in Central Asia, and east into the Himalaya Mountains. I personally think that if locals living in those places follow the example of Pakistan's people, then the snow leopard population in the world would be sure to increase.

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