Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife department to probe leopard death, Pakistan

Snow Leopard dies in Wildlife Dept’s custody
February 26, 2011 (2 days ago)

The villagers claimed that they had caught the wild cat alive.—File photo
SKARDU: A Snow Leopard which had spread terror among villagers allegedly died in the custody of the Wildlife Department on Saturday.
The wild-cat had come out of a forest in search of food last month and had spread panic among the residents of Minthal by killing livestock.
On Saturday morning, the villagers followed and caught the cat and handed it over to the Wildlife Department but it died soon after.
The villagers claimed that they had caught the wild cat alive.
The Wildlife Department said that it will conduct a post-mortem of the cat after which the cause of its death can be determined.
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Wildlife dept to probe leopard death
By Shabbir Mir
Published: February 28, 2011

GILGIT: The wildlife department of Gilgit-Baltistan has constituted a committee to probe the killing of a rare snow leopard beaten to death by residents in a remote village, officials told The Express Tribune on Sunday.

“We have constituted a committee to thoroughly investigate the matter,” said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Ghulam Mohammad.

Earlier on Saturday, locals in Mathal, a village in Skardu, captured and tortured a snow leopard, which they claimed had killed dozens of their livestock previously. “This time too, the lethal predator had attacked our livestock and injured it,” said Wafa Khan, a resident of Skardu.

As a precautionary measure, locals said they had been prepared to counter the threat and when they learnt the leopard had ambushed the cattle, they reacted swiftly to save it. “This time around, people were alert so the leopard failed to inflict huge losses,” said a resident from Skardu, Raza Hussain.

Sources said people were waiting for the cat and when it arrived, they tried to capture it alive. Some threw a large blanket around it while others caught her tail. In the wrangling, the wild animal sustained injuries on her head and other parts of her body as it was hit to the wall repeatedly.

“After hectic efforts, the leopard was overpowered and handed over to forest officials,” said a villager, adding that the leopard died while she was in custody of officials from the forest department, who had a veterinary doctor to have the leopard inspected.

DFO Mohammad said that besides forest officials, a veterinary doctor and a snow leopard expert will also be part of the committee that will submit its findings to him. “There are various conflicting reports with respect to the killing of the precious wild animal,” he said, adding that severe legal action will be taken if anyone is found guilty of the killing.

According to wildlife laws, a perpetrator can face more than two years imprisonment for killing the rare cat.

The snow leopard is one of the most endangered wild animals found in the mountainous region.

Conservationists say that wild animals turn towards human settlements when they don’t find food in the mountains. “When illegal hunting of animals such as Markhor and Ibex will take place, these animals will naturally turn towards human settlements in search of food,” said an environmentalist in Gilgit. He added that the survival of this precious animal is under threat due to illegal hunting.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2011.