Snow leopards in Pakistan threatened by poaching in Afghanistan

The Snow Leopard Trust has analyzed the data from Bayad’s collar and found that she traversed a 1,563 square kilometer area, splitting her time between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the map above, Bayad’s movements are the little black dots, and the red line is the border between countries.

Past convensional VHF radio collars used in previous snow leopard studies lacked the technology to record and store locations, so researchers had to follow radio signals on foot through the mountains as best they could. Radio receivers have a typical range of just a few kilometers and require collars to be nearly in line-of-sight. Cats would often “disappear” and then reappear, and researchers had to guess where they were in-between.

Bayad’s collar stored hundreds of GPS locations for the entire 14 months she wore it. The data from the collar makes it clear that Bayad, and other snow leopards who also journey from Pakistan into Afghanistan, are vulnerable to poachers in Afghanistan. Hunting snow leopards in Afghanistan has been outlawed since 2002. Still, pelts fetch upwards of $1,500 and impovrished Afghanis often break poaching laws. Approximately 100-220 snow leopards remain on Afghanistan, and 300-400 in Pakistan.

 The information gained from Bayad’s collar will help researchers implement more effective conservation strategies, and underscores the critical need for transboundary protected areas to conserve snow leopards.

6 Comments

  1. People are out poaching these animals why are you giving them a map on exactly where to hunt them, i know its good for science but these animals are Endangered and showing these Horrible people where these amazing creatures are is Rediculuos and unnecessary.

  2. We would never do anything to aid poachers. If we thought for a minute that these maps could be of any help to poachers, we would not make them public. Luckily, these maps would be useless for poachers. People who live in this region know there are snow leopards there, so this map affords them nothing new and there is no way to tell from it where a snow leopard may be at any given time. If someone from outside of the area were to try to use this map, they would soon find that the mountains of the region are by far too complex to navigate with a low res, nonspecific, non-landmarked map such as this. Also, notice that this map contains no GPS coordinates.

    You are right that poaching is a big problem. Maps like this are more than good for science. The government uses maps like these when they are formulating protective policies. By far, the good of the map outweighs the bad.

    Finally, keep in mind that we don’t post maps right after we make them–meaning that by the time we post them, they are usually quite old. For example, the data in this map is almost 3 years old. With snow leopards liking to roam far and wide, by the time we post a map, the snow leopard has had many weeks–if not months–to move on.

  3. Snow leopards are magnificent creatures and we really do want to help them but living in Lahore,Pakistan how can i directly be involved in this conservation program?

  4. Can you give us any specifics on the following line: “The information gained from Bayad’s collar will help researchers implement more effective conservation strategies …”.

    1. The information on movements and home range size helps us improve our conservation strategies in several different ways. First, knowing that Bayad moved between Pakistan and Afghanistan underscores the need for transboundary agreements between countries to protect snow leopards and potentially transboundary protected areas. Second, knowing how large an area a snow leopard needs helps us determine how many snow leopards and area can support, and therefore, how large an area is needed to support a viable population of snow leopards. Finally, from the Trust’s perspective, it helps us figure out over how large an area we need to be working when we’re establishing conservation agreements with local herder communities to protect an individual snow leopard throughout it’s entire home range.

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