Make hay, while the sun still
shines. Save these mystical creatures of the enchanted heights while they still
strive and last.
Snow Leopards (Panthera Uncia) are amongst one of the most endangered species of
the world and are on the verge of extinction. They have thick white fur in the
winters and yellowish relatively thinner skin with black spots in the summer
alongside large tails (30-40 Inches) which are nearly 2/3 of the length of their
body (50-60 Inches Adult). Barely 6000 of these magnificent predators are left
in the whole world and face grave threat in the wild due to lack of prey,
poaching, trophy hunts and profit hunting. The number of Snow Leopards is
declining very rapidly and these animals will go extinct within the next Decade
and a Half if they are not provided better and safer living condition. The Snow
Leopard is on the Red List of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of
Nature) which indicates that it is one of the most endangered species in the
Kunz-erab National Park and Chitral Gol National Park are examples of us trying
to make hay before the rays of hope drown permanently into the floods of
darkness but alas we need more efforts than we are currently doing. Chitral Park
is known to have the most number of Snow Leopards at one place in the entire
East Asian and sub continental region and is also one of the safe havens for
more than 75 snow Leopards. Pakistan is fortunate to be one of the only 12
countries that are home to one of the most endangered species of this world, the
“Snow Leopard” and should try its level best to protect this animal. The Snow
Leopard Trust and the WWF in collaboration with the Pakistani Government have
been working in the country but they are not able to perform to fully efficiency
due to the extreme terrain of the area where these elegant cats strive. Not only
are these Cats amongst one of the most beautiful creatures who inhabit the
Himalayas but they are also essential to keep the ecosystem of these mountains
stabilized. Snow Leopards protect the mountains from being over grazed which is
very essential because of the already limited area of grass land in the alpines.
They feed on goats which if left alone can cause overgrazing and eventually can
even lead to things like avalanches.
Marmots are being hunted, sold and also exported which are amongst the main
components of Snow Leopards food cycle. They can’t find marmots in the area any
longer due to excessive hunting. Marmot skin is now sold for US Dollars 10 in
Karachi and exported to UK due to its high demand which is doing nothing but
increasing problems for the already near extinct Snow Leopard.
A growing number of people are encroaching on the Snow Leopard’s habitat by
introducing livestock which displaces wild sheep and goat-The Snow Leopards
natural prey. This forces the Leopards to turn their attention to the livestock,
resulting in devastating economic loses for poor, rural families who use
livestock as a source of food, income and clothing. To help prevent loses, the
Leopard is often killed.
“We prefer our lives over the lives of some random cat. We need food and these
Cats are a threat to our source of earning. If they attack our herds we have to
kill them and they are like gold on a platter since we can earn a lot by selling
their skins.” Stated Ahmed (Name concealed for security purposes), a local
farmer who resides in the suburbs of Chitral.
According to WWF, the situation cannot start to improve until the government
intervenes and works to stabilize the socio-economic condition of the area.
Furthermore another reason of such behavior by the locals is the high illiteracy
rate in the area. Very few locals realize of the crime they are committing
whilst doing things like killing/poaching the Snow Leopard. The situation looks
nowhere close to congenial because the government has failed at all levels in
the North and North Western Mountains. Confiscated Skin is reportedly sold by
government officials at high prices particularly in 2009 (11 Dried Skin Mats
Sold). Following that, officials of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation
(PTDC) have also been reported to have been using Snow Leopard skin for Décor in
the office of the Branch Manager at Narran Valley in 2006 which has been a big
question mark on the government’s ability to perform and the sincerity of
appointed officials to the cause of protecting this nearly extinct animal.
The only way to protect these animals is to firstly educate the locals of the
area with regards to the scarcity as well as the importance of the animal.
Followed by which the government need to provide better economic opportunities
to people living up north in these mountains. Consequently we also need to
impose harsher punishment for harming this animal and any hunters shall be
punished with jail time since taking money from them doesn’t apparently affect
them. Deforestation should be limited and the area in which these Cats live
should be expanded.
We have been blessed with something that others envy us for, something they
crave yet we are taking it for granted. Not to say that no effort has been made
yet but we do need more dedication work towards this field. Conclusively,
although some effort has been done by WWF, Snow Leopard Trust, Chitral Park,
Kunz-erab Park and the Government but unfortunately these efforts do not suffice
for the cause which is to say that if the same goes on, we might only have
pictures and posters to show to our children. If you see any illegal/illicit
activities regarding the Snow Leopard or any other endangered species being
carried out; please report it to concerned authorities as soon as possible.
We have lately seen many of the animals getting extinct or are on the verge of
getting extinct and this has been primarily due to our infringement of the
ecosystem. These creatures also do have a right to live on this planet. Our
self-centered attitude is a threat to their lives. Ruthless cutting of trees,
global warming and above all hunting the poor animals by no means is
justifiable. We need to think rationally! We need to think humanely! Be
considerate to these poor animals and prove that you have a human nature. Prove
your humanity and help these animals!