Pakistan’s wildlife conservation experts, government officials and foreign diplomats gathered in Islamabad for World Conservation Day last week and vowed to take further steps to protect the country’s snow leopards – with support from the United States.
Government officials, foreign envoys and scientists alike were awed by the sheer beauty of wild snow leopards as they watched a screening of the BBC documentary “Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth”, shot in northern Pakistan, at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University on World Conservation Day. “This film tells the snow leopard’s real story, a story of interaction and at times conflict between humans and animals,” said Richard G. Olson, the United States’ Ambassador to Pakistan, who attended the screening and followed the ensuing panel discussion about snow leopard conservation with great interest.
Working with Local Communities
Ali Nawaz, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Pakistan Country Program Director, was among the panelists. He explained how he and his team are focusing on working with local communities to address conflicts between humans and cats: “Pastoral communities living in the region sometimes lose livestock to snow leopards. However, more livestock succumb to disease than snow leopard attacks. That’s why we introduced vaccination programs, which more than make up for the animals lost to snow leopards. The result is that the communities become more tolerant of them,” he said.
Efforts like these may soon be helped along by the USAID. As he addressed the crowd at Quaid-i-Azam University, Ambassador Olson announced that the Ambassador’s Fund Program will focus on wildlife conservation projects in local communities, providing grants to eligible Pakistani organizations for wildlife conservation in Pakistan.
Tackling Global Challenges
Beyond the local level, the United States are also involved in snow leopard conservation on the global scale, with USAID funding a multi-country, multi-stakeholder project led by the World Wildlife Fund that aims to reduce the climate-related vulnerabilities that affect both mountain communities and species such as snow leopards, while improving the water supply and biodiversity of South and Central Asia. The Snow Leopard Trust will play an important role in this project, providing expertise and support.