Environmentalists concerned over ‘disappearance’ of snow leopards

CHITRAL: Despite heavy snowfall in the mountains this year, no snow leopard could be spotted in the lower altitude areas, including Chitral Gol National Park.
Shafiqullah Khan, the project manager of Pakistan Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (PSLEP), said the wild animal had last been spotted five years ago in Chitral forests. Its long disappearance has become a matter of concern for the environmentalists.
He said by camera-trapping method a common leopard was spotted last year in lower Chitral and the vicinity of Chitral Gol National Park, but no traces of snow leopard were recorded.
Mr Khan said that being shy in nature it always preferred to remain away from the human settlements. It comes down only when forced by intense need of food in case of heavy snowfall in the higher altitude area.
“Snow leopard was expected to be spotted this year, especially in Chitral Gol National Park, but the field staff of the wildlife department has not yet found even its footprints in higher altitude area,” he said.
The population density of snow leopard remains abysmally low in its habitat due to its enormity.
“It used to be spotted in Toshi game reserve on the other bank of Garam Chashma river in February when the higher mountains are packed with snow and devoured the Kashmir Markhor present there in a large number,” he said.
Mr Khan said that the number of wolves and lynx had seen an abnormal increase, which had a harmful effect on Kashmir Markhor in Chitral Gol National Park and the other game reserves.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2019

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