WWF initiative of "Asia High Mountains Project" enhanced Snow Leopard survival rate in Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: (APP) The survival rate of snow leopard, an endangered species in the northern areas of Pakistan is significantly increases with the initiatives taken by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) under its `Asia High Mountains Project'.

The project has decreased the predation inside pens by snow leopards up to 40 percent and offenses against the snow leopard by human up to almost 90 percent through involving the local communities.

The project with its diverse focus, funded through WWF-US by USAID, has also decreased the losses of livestock due to diseases up to 50 percent, an official of WWF told APP.

The beneficiaries of the project are the communities of Hoper Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, Kalash and Laspur valleys in Chitral (KPK) in Pakistan.

Estimates suggest that the snow leopards are quickly disappearing; their global population has declined to between 2000-4000 individuals.

While there are only 200-400 snow leopards left in Pakistan and human-wildlife conflict is a major threat to their survival, the official said.

Pakistan, like other countries, is suffering from overgrazing in alpine meadows, poaching and retaliatory killing of wildlife, declining availability of water resources, climate change impacts, and poorly planned infrastructure as well as other more localized issues.

Through the lens of snow leopard conservation, the official added, the project addressed the linked issues and challenges of climate change adaptation and high mountain landscape management, laying a foundation for connecting these issues to water security and headwaters management.

Listing some achievements, the official said that WWF project banned illegal hunting of snow leopard and its prey `Himalayan ibex/Kashmir markhor' through community managed effective watch and ward system.

It has introduced incentive scheme for the project communities like livestock Insurance scheme and vaccination campaign and also the concept of predator proof pens to reduce human wildlife conflict in the project site.

The project has built capacity of local community in better livestock management, improved pasture management techniques, improved watch and ward and improved natural resource management techniques.

Youth, teachers and other community members of the project site were also educated about the importance of snow leopard and its prey for a healthy ecosystem and also the importance of water resources like glaciers, rivers, streams and lakes.

The project has enhanced the capacity of wildlife officials in snow leopard survey techniques through arranging various training programme and introduced improved and implemented grazing system.

It has converted the local traditional groups and institutions governing natural resource management in to the village conservation committees.

The project also initiated plantation and fodder cultivation for decreasing pressure on forest patches and pastures, increased the livelihood options for women, carried out assessments for better monitoring of snow leopard population and its habitat and developed pasture management plan.