Posted on 23 October 2021
Karachi, 23 October 2021: To mark International Snow Leopard Day, WWF-Pakistan released footage of two snow leopard cubs found thriving in Dhee Nala, in the buffer zone of Khunjerab National Park, where community members have reported an increase in the number of snow leopards in the Karakoram range.
The remarkable footage, captured by a local wildlife photographer Imtiaz Ahmad, highlights how the snow leopard is important in keeping the ecosystem in balance, with their presence indicating the good health of their high-altitude habitat. If snow leopards thrive, so will countless other species and the millions of people whose lives depend on the rivers flowing down from the glaciers in these mountains.
Studies estimate snow leopard habitat in Pakistan to be around 80,000 sq km, which forms 4.5 per cent of the global snow leopard range. Only 11 per cent of this area or habitat range has been researched as the rough terrain and harsh climatic conditions make this considerably difficult.
A recent WWF report suggests that between 221-450 snow leopards are killed every year globally and around 55 per cent of these killings in retaliation to snow leopard predation on their livestock. Despite this, it is encouraging to see local wildlife photographers capturing unique footage which is helpful in providing critical knowledge about snow leopard range and habitat and participating in efforts to create awareness about the importance of these big cats.
Imtiaz Ahmad has been following these cubs since birth and continues to do so now that they are six months old. According to Imtiaz, “I have captured this unique footage of snow leopard cubs and have also been developing videos so that my community can learn more about this species, understand how they are linked to our lives, change perceptions around them and save them from extinction. When I follow these cubs through my lens, I am hopeful about their future”.
For over five decades, WWF-Pakistan has been working to restore and conserve endangered wildlife species in the country by supporting the management of national parks, reducing conflict between snow leopards and communities, boosting rural development and mitigating illegal wildlife trade. Additionally, the organization works with communities for mobilization, education and awareness; which collectively add to its conservation efforts.
Sharing his comments on the video, Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes, WWF-Pakistan said, “It is vital that we recognize the importance of the habitat that supports this species, not only for the sustainability of local livelihoods but also the millions of people who live on the plains of which the glaciers provide tonnes of fertile sediment vital for agriculture”. He also emphasized that we need to determine how many animals are present in the range state counties so that we can effectively manage the species and habitats.
He went on to say that due to habitat degradation and unsustainable infrastructure developments, the survival of many threatened species, including the snow leopard, hangs in the balance and that climate change is making it harder to undertake conservation efforts with communities experiencing extreme poverty caused by climate-related shocks.
The footage, which has been produced and packaged by Nyal Mueenuddin Films, can be viewed on WWF-Pakistan’s social media channels.