In 2013, Snow Leopard Trust researchers in Pakistan hope to complete camera trap studies and conflict surveys that will help them paint the most complete picture of snow leopard distribution and conservation status across the country to date.
The Snow Leopard Trust’s local partner organization in Pakistan is finalizing the country’s first comprehensive report on snow leopard distribution and status
Community conservation programs are changing local people’s perspectives of snow leopards
Snow leopard status report will help expand and focus these successful conservation efforts to key snow leopard habitats
Using a combination of research cameras (deployed in Khunjerab National Park, one of Pakistan’s prime snow leopard habitats) and surveys exploring conflicts between humans and cats across the country’s entire snow leopard range, the Snow Leopard Foundation, our local partner organization, has been collecting data about the distribution, conservation status and threat level of snow leopards in Pakistan for several years. They have been sharing the results of their work with local authorities and partners, building valuable partnerships: “Thanks to the efforts of the Snow Leopard Foundation, our understanding of snow leopards has deepened, and our staff is now equipped with the basics of carnivore assessment and conservation measures”, says Aftab Mehmood, the Divisional Forest Officer at the Wildlife Department of Gilgit-Baltistan Province.
In 2013, the Snow Leopard Foundation’s team, led by Dr. Muhammad Ali Nawaz, is hoping to finalize these distribution studies and to assemble the country’s first comprehensive snow leopard status report. “Knowing where snow leopards live, how many there are and what conflicts exist between them and local communities will allow us to both expand our successful conservation programs and to focus them even more on the areas where they will have the biggest impact”, explains Ali Nawaz. “In addition, this data will also help us and our government and NGO partners in defining priorities when it comes to establishing protected areas.”
Local Communities’ Perceptions of Snow Leopards are Changing
The Snow Leopard Foundation’s community conservation programs, including a Livestock Insurance Scheme, corral improvements and vaccination campaigns are aimed at reducing conflicts between local communities and snow leopards, one of the major threats the cats face in Pakistan. They have yielded very encouraging results. Government officials, partners and, perhaps most importantly, representatives of local communities, have praised the efforts: “A few years ago, we treated snow leopards and other predators as beasts; and killing them used to be taken as a sign of prestige in the community. Now, thanks to the interventions of the Snow Leopard Foundation in the valley, perceptions have changed. We’ve learned – again – to coexist with these animals”, says Phurdom Khan, a representative of the Shandoor Local Support Organization, a community network in Gilgit-Baltistan.
This year, Ali Nawaz and the Snow Leopard Foundation plan to further expand these successful programs to remote areas of the Karakoram, a region they have identified as another key snow leopard habitat.