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.

Climatic calamities and endangered species

Written by Syed Mujahid Ali Shah, by email

15 August 2010 The recent heavy rains in northern mountainous belts of Pakistan are hardly going to spare wild fauna from devastating their habitats as that of human population.

Among all such animals, the most concerned specie is snow leopard. They are already threatened being left only a few hundreds in these mountain ranges due to ongoing prey depletion of theirs following dry conditions caused by ever increasing temperature trends. But a wet calamity of heavy rains during recent weeks anticipates a new threat.

The unusual heavy summer rainfall situations are opposite to that of normal weather conditions of snow leopard habitats in the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges of Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral. This drastic change in climate can create vegetation rich landscape situation where snow leopards and its prey species cannot live.

As the ideal habitat of these animals is open semi desert rocky mountains—out of dense vegetations like those of Chilghoza pine near nival zones of Himalayas and Karakoram. On the other hand huge rainfall situations, as some recently recorded 100 mm/h in Baltistan and Ladakh regions, being semi desert rocky hills, they are easily eroded and lose most of the soil. What leaves behind may be just rock, unable to produce enough fodder for the species of Markhor, ibex, Marcopolo sheep and the musk deer on which snow leopards thrive. Isn’t the world becoming so unsafe for both human and animals from carbon emissions in bulk? If timely steps were not taken to cut the greenhouse gases by the industrialised nations, such species would just wither away.

New challenges in conserving Pakistani snow leopards

* Only 300 to 420 wild snow leopards left in mountain ranges of Pakistan
* Snow leopards’ habitat threatened by climate change, rising temperatures

By Syed Mujahid Ali Shah

In Pakistan, the northern mountain ranges of the Himalayas — Karakoram , Hindukush and Pamir — Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan host one of the most fascinating animals of the world: the snow leopard. The magnificent animal is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red-list of endangered species.

According to a recent scientific study by Yale University, there are 300 to 420 estimated snow leopards left in these snow-covered mountain ranges of Pakistan, out of a total estimated world population of 4,000 to 7,000. This region is the main corridor of connecting bigger populations of snow leopards living in Pakistan, Central Asia, China, India and Nepal.

Climate change and increasing temperatures have caused fast degradation of the bio-tops in these mountains, which also host wild species of ibex, Marcopolo sheep, blue sheep, Astor Markhor and the musk deer, on which the snow leopard depends.

This has resulted in a tough inter and intra-specie survival competition. Due to food shortage in its natural sanctuaries, snow leopards have started moving down to villages in search of food and frequent encounters with cattle herds are now being reported from villages near Khunjerab National Park and Central Karakoram National Park in Hunza-Nagar district. Two decades ago, the government started ‘trophy hunting’ programmes in collaboration with mountain villagers in these regions to protect the snow leopard and its prey. Such hunting expeditions cost $3,000 to $80,000 and 80 percent of the money goes directly to the mountain communities, while 20 percent goes to the Forest and Wildlife Department in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The project has showed positive results in stopping illegal hunting of Marcopolo sheep, ibex, Astore Markhor and blue sheep.

Faced with an alarming future scenario in the shape of critical depletion of the snow leopard’s prey species, the conservation of wild fauna in these mountains will need more than just relying on trophy hunting projects.

As a new protection strategy, measures can be taken in the form of incentive programmes for the villagers to help them conserve wild life hot spots, as well as new awareness and educational campaigns on mass-level in these mountain regions.

As we are already on the verge of losing this endangered wild species — mainly due to lack of awareness and direct dependency of the local population on natural resources — the world should show responsibility by realising the value of Pakistani snow leopards and play its role in protecting them through economic and educational means.

Syed Mujahid Ali Shah is a student of Landscape Ecology and Nature Conservation in Germany.

Snow Leopard Hunted Markhor (Chitral) G. H. Farooqui February 15, 2010
Snow leopard hunted Markhor CHITRAL: A snow Leopard successfully hunted a Markhor at Shahresham area of Toshi conservation territory Divisional Forest officer of Wild Life Imtiaz Hussain Lal confirmed killing of a Markhor by a Snow leopard. He said that this is the fist attempt of a Snow leopard who hunted and killed a Markhor in this winter season. He said earlier that a foreign TV channel team has arrived here to shoot snow leopard hunting but snow leopard was not came down to ground areas and now he entered the inhabitants of markhor. Hence Shahzada Gul general Secretary of Al-Burkhan village conservation Committee (VCC) disclosed that this is second attempt and hunting of a snow leopard where a Markhor was his target and he successfully killed her and eaten. Dead body of Markhor is lying on river bank at Garamchishma road while snow leopard also lying there near to Markhor and a large number of people approaching there to see snow leopard. Shahzada Gul said that existing of Snow leopard is a good act and our tourism especially Eco tourism can be promoted promptly by this way. He said that hundred of Markhor and Ibex living in Toshi area and Snow leopard came their in their search to hunt and eat them. These Markhor and Ibex came down at Afternoon time to drink water from the river. G.H. Farooqi PO Bxo No. 50 GPO Chitral Pakistan phone No. 03025989602, 0943-302295, 414418 Email: