Radio collar unfolding mysteries of snow leopard, Chitral District, Pakistan

Sunday, March 20, 2011

PESHAWAR: The joint venture of Wildlife department and some international organizations to tie satellite radio collar to a snow leopard in Chitral district provided unique opportunity to researchers to explore and study the obscure habits of rare big cat.

“Snow leopard is considered as cryptic in nature because the animal resides in one of the harshest and most inaccessible mountainous areas due to which it was almost impossible for wildlife biologist to explore its life,” said Muhammad Ali, deputy conservator, Wildlife Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Talking to APP, Muhammad Ali said the attempt to tie up satellite collar by Wildlife department, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and International Snow Leopard Trust provided a base to biologists to study and unfold the mysteries shrouding the life and habit of this elusive wild specie.

This obscure nature of the creature has led to it being labelled as the “Imperiled Phantom” by eminent wildlife biologists, remarked Muhammad Ali.

It was a first ever successful endeavor that a snow leopard was trapped in the mountainous Chiltral district and tied up with a satellite collar. Earlier, he said, attempts were made in India and Nepal, but results were not satisfactory. However now the mystery is uncovering with the passage of time and the data collected through satellite collar has provided opportunity to the biologists to learn about the snow leopard and take measures for its conservation and preservation.

The deputy conservator said snow leopard is a top predator and its existence ensures that a strong eco system is intact. The biologists, he continued, wanted to conserve snow leopard to ensure existence of strong eco system and if this rare specie become extinct, it will be a great damage to natural system of existence of human being and other species.

He said the study in Chitral district informed biologist about the range of snow leopard in Chitral and adjacent Afghanistan areas. Now we are aware that where the snow leopard can be found during winter and summer seasons.

Furthermore, he added, the attempt of exploring snow leopard life encouraged the researcher and they made second attempt in Mangolio and got more data and information.

Similarly, three snow leopards were snapped in a single shot at the Khunjerab National Park (KNP). This took place during a 450 nights’ camera trapping session through November and December last year.

In addition to camera trapping an area greater than 1, 400 square kilometres was scanned during occupancy surveys and 150 faecal samples were collected for genetic analysis.

Once data analysis is completed, the study will provide more reliable estimates of snow leopards besides highlighting existing management and monitoring limitations which will ultimately help in better managing park resources in the long run.

Wildlife official expressed the hope that soon the obscure life of snow leopard will become open to the biologists and better measures could easily be adopted for conservation of top predator of the ecosystem.

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