Snow leopards of Hindu Kush

By Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

This is with reference to an article published in Dawn on March 3. The reporter has given a description of the measures taken by the government to protect the endangered snow leopard which carries great importance in the ecosystem and many years ago billboards had also been installed on roadsides about the legal position of this big cat and the law that had been introduced to save it but after a few years the boards disappeared.

Many of my friends will surely remember those billboards but time has changed and humans are changing more rapidly than the changes taking place in nature.

The snow leopards used to come down to the bottom of the valleys in search of food in winters specially when there was much snowfall. They did damage to livestock but left after eating the prey partly or entirely but was not molested. Some poachers with good rifles could kill this predator but once in a blue moon. At present the wild life department is doing cowardly and sends watchers to distant valleys to see this cat but it is an elusive animal and cannot be seen so easily.

The highland pastures have now been occupied by a very large number of Gujoor herders and this community moves in the dark of the nights with all their livestock and gear and gadgets including sophisticated rifles and reach very high grazing grounds  where they hide their weapons and whenever a snow leopard attacks their flocks they use their rifles and where possible open fire on the snow leopard with repeater rifles and the target is achieved which is dragged into special caves in the vicinity or buried in deep graves dug for the purpose. The herders in Chitral pastures especially in alpine meadows thus dispose of the rare big cat – the native of the region.

The herders get into collusion with local poachers and have set up a network and communicate with each other for poaching, about the presence of big ibex or the threat of the big cat. In the past the local herders used to set fire to big size Juniper trees to give smoke signal to frighten the cat as they did not possess rifles nor they dared to fire at the said cat.

The presence of Gujoor herders in the high pastures is the No one threat to this endangered animal and more wild life watchers are needed to cope with human threat i.e. local poachers and Gujoor herders alike as both of them are on one page against wild life. A single wild life watcher cannot save the wild life in the far off grazing grounds, hills, glacier moraines and the whole wilderness as his life is in danger because of the poachers. Chitral is the largest district (now two) and has 36 valleys beside the smaller sub valleys where ibex, markhor, snow leopard, wolf, kites, and many other rare species haunt.

There should be a greater number of  wildlife watchers and Mr. Malik Aslam is requested to get acquainted with the geography of north Pakistan and the requirements that are urgently needed. He must travel, trek, hike, see and then hold meetings with experts and local intelligentsia to plan for the environment and ecology of the mountainous region of northern Pakistan. A lecture inside a crystal palace in Islam bad is not the solution of this grave and grim issue.

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