AboutZoos, Since 2008


Snow leop­ard cub taken from wild will be used for edu­ca­tional pur­poses in Pakistan

pub­lished 05 Decem­ber 2014 | mod­i­fied 05 Decem­ber 2014

A young snow leop­ard that has been kept in a small cage on the side of Pakistan’s Karako­ram high­way for two years after being cap­tured will get a suit­able enclo­sure soon. It will be part of an edu­ca­tional reha­bil­i­ta­tion facil­ity that will raise aware­ness for snow leop­ard conservation.

The life of a snow leop­ard cub in north­ern Pak­istan is about to change for the bet­ter! Six major national and inter­na­tional part­ners — Snow Leop­ard Foun­da­tion, Parks and Wildlife Depart­ment, Gilgit-​Baltistan, US State Department’s Embassy in Islam­abad, IFAW, Snow Leop­ard Trust, and Snow Leop­ard Con­ser­vancy — are part­ner­ing together to con­struct a new and spe­cially designed 11,000 square foot wildlife care facil­ity, the first of its kind in Pakistan’s Gilgit-​Baltistan region.

Villagers-with-snowleopardcubOn 31 Decem­ber 2012, local vil­lagers found a wild snow leop­ard cub, only a few months old at the time, and took it with them in hopes of pro­tect­ing it from harm. Soon after, the news was brought to the notice of Wildlife Depart­ment in Gilgit-​Baltistan, one of Pakistan’s north­ern­most provinces.

How­ever, facil­i­ties to care for dis­lo­cated wildlife are inad­e­quate in the province, and sub­se­quently the young snow leop­ard has been liv­ing in a small road­side cage. Exposed to heat, traf­fic emis­sions, and fre­quent provo­ca­tion by onlook­ers, Dr. Ali Nawaz, head of the Snow Leop­ard Foun­da­tion of Pak­istan, calls this “an unten­able sit­u­a­tion for this wild animal.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with inter­na­tional experts at Nor­dens Ark, a leader in wildlife care and res­cue, Jaf­far Ud Din, pro­gram man­ager at the Snow Leop­ard Foun­da­tion, led the devel­op­ment of designs for a facil­ity that will be a safe and healthy new home for the cat. Con­struc­tion is set to begin at the selected loca­tion in Nal­tar Val­ley in early 2015. This new facil­ity will also host a Wildlife Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter, where the pub­lic can learn about the snow leop­ard, its ecosys­tem, and the threats it faces.

The U.S. Mis­sion to Pak­istan wel­comes the oppor­tu­nity to sup­port the Pak­istani and Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions pro­tect­ing this at-​risk cub. The snow leop­ard has been called a national her­itage ani­mal of Pak­istan, and we are con­fi­dent that this project will help to edu­cate the next gen­er­a­tion on wildlife pro­tec­tion and stew­ard­ship prin­ci­ples”, says Ambas­sador Richard Olson.

Most ‘res­cue’ attempts are harmful

The cub will be an impor­tant inter­me­di­ary and ambas­sador between local peo­ple and wildlife
Ali Nawaz, Head of the Snow Leop­ard Foun­da­tion of Pakistan »

Since com­mu­ni­ties play a ‘front line’ role in wildlife con­ser­va­tion, lack of aware­ness and envi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity are con­sid­ered promi­nent threats to wildlife.

Build­ing both coop­er­a­tion and greater aware­ness among local com­mu­ni­ties for con­ser­va­tion is an impor­tant step in pro­tect­ing Pakistan’s snow leop­ard pop­u­la­tion in the long term.

One of the Edu­ca­tion Centre’s main pur­poses is to help peo­ple under­stand that it’s almost always best to leave wildlife in the wild, even young cubs” says Brad Ruther­ford, the Snow Leop­ard Trust’s Exec­u­tive Director.

Local peo­ple felt they needed to res­cue this par­tic­u­lar cub because they were wor­ried it would die of expo­sure. How­ever, Ruther­ford affirms that, “often, moth­ers will return for their babies even when it appears they might have aban­doned them.”

One of our aims through the edu­ca­tion por­tion of the facil­ity is to help peo­ple to under­stand and deci­pher when and why it is okay to leave ani­mals in the wild — even if they seem to be lost”, he adds.

We are very happy to con­tribute in this effort to ensure that the snow leop­ard gets an ade­quate qual­ity of life,” says Katie Moore, IFAW Direc­tor of Ani­mal Res­cue. “It is our hope that her story car­ries an endur­ing mes­sage on the impor­tance of leav­ing wildlife in the wild.”

The Wildlife Edu­ca­tion Cen­tre will serve as an anchor for ongo­ing wildlife and habi­tat edu­ca­tion and out­reach activ­i­ties in the area.

Silent Roar: Search­ing for the Snow Leop­ard — A nature doc­u­men­tary:

(Source: Ani­mal Earth YouTube channel)

No can­di­date for release
After the cub’s cap­ture nearly two years ago, the Gilgit-​Baltistan Wildlife Depart­ment looked to inter­na­tional experts to con­sult on the pos­si­bil­ity of releas­ing the young snow leop­ard back into the wild.

The deci­sion was made against try­ing to release this par­tic­u­lar cat, since she now lacks all of the skills nec­es­sary to hunt and fend for her­self. It was then that the Gilgit-​Baltistan Wildlife Depart­ment decided to reach out to domes­tic and inter­na­tional part­ners alike, to not only meet this cub’s imme­di­ate needs, but to increase insti­tu­tional capac­ity for proac­tive man­age­ment in order to pre­vent sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions from hap­pen­ing in the future.

Gilgit-​Baltistan is taken as the liv­ing museum for wildlife and hence encounter with wildlife in the wild is a com­mon phe­nom­ena but we often come across embar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tions due to the unavail­abil­ity of proper care and hous­ing facil­ity in the region, says Mr. Ghu­lam Muham­mad, Con­ser­va­tor, Parks and Wildlife Depart­ment, Gilgit-​Baltistan. “The cur­rent ini­tia­tive will help boost con­ser­va­tion efforts in the region”, he adds.

The Snow Leop­ard Conservancy’s founder and direc­tor Dr. Rod­ney Jack­son agrees:
“We believe every snow leop­ard deserves a bet­ter and more secure future. That being said, it is impor­tant to make sure local peo­ple in Pak­istan, or any­where else, will no longer sep­a­rate a cub from its mother or remove it from the wild. We hope that this snow leop­ard will serve a use­ful role as an Ambas­sador ani­mal, offer­ing peo­ple who rarely see a snow leop­ard with the oppor­tu­nity to mar­vel at its beauty and ensure other wild snow leop­ards are allowed to roam free from threats.”

pdfFact sheet about snow leopards

(Source: Snow Leop­ard Trust press release, 04.12.2014)

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