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‘Only 200 snow leopards left in Pakistan’

ISLAMABAD: According to estimates, there were 400 to 600 snow leopards in Pakistan a few years ago. But a climate change ministry official has said that DNA testing of animal excrement has revealed that there are now only 200 snow leopards in the country.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, the climate change ministry’s inspector general forest, Syed Mahmood Nasir, said: “The snow leopard lives at high altitudes, from 12,000 to 18,000 feet. It is found in 12 countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Russia, and according to estimates there are only 6,000 snow leopards in the world.”

“A few decades back, when I was young, the skin of a snow leopard used to sell in Islamabad from Rs10 million.

Now, a complete ban has been imposed on the hunting of the animal, and it is being implemented. The international community is also interested and very sensitive about the conservation of the snow leopard,” he said.

“Snow leopards never attack people, but they frequently attack livestock. Whenever it enters a livestock pen it kills all the animals, because it likes to drink their blood instead of eating their flesh.”

“The DNA test shows that 75pc of the snow leopard’s foodstuff consists of livestock, so they frequently attack livestock and are killed by people.”

Mr Nasir explained that one of the ways they are trying to minimize the loss of livestock to snow leopard attacks, is by urging communities to vaccinate their livestock so they do not also lose livestock to diseases.

“Each leopard travels in an area of around 200 kilometers. In 2004-5, we fixed a transistor on a snow leopard, and it travelled from Pakistan to Afghanistan and then came back,” he said.

He added that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has allocated a grant of $4.6 million to Pakistan Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection.

“The project will contribute to implementing integrated sustainable forest and land management on over 4.1 million hectares, which will result in securing major snow leopard landscapes in the country.”

He said the snow leopard would be saved, and hoped that in the near future the species’ number would increase.

Mr Nasir said that in the next fiscal year budget, Rs2 billion have been proposed for the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme, under which 100 million trees will be planted over the next four years.

He said a large number of forests are currently located on private land, which is why they are cut down frequently.

“In the Rawalpindi division, forests are located on 120,000 acres of government land and 170,000 acres of private land. Steps are being taken to increase the forest area. Around Rs2 billion will be allocated by the provinces to increase forest cover.”

While the government claims that forests take up 5pc of the country’s land, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that forest cover only makes up 2pc of land.

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