GILGIT: Snow leopards are cryptic in nature and tend to reside in one of the harshest and inaccessible milieus of our planet that encountering with snow leopard in the wild is like a dream. This elusive nature of snow leopardled one of the eminent wildlife biologists of the world to attribute this as “ Imperilled Phantom”.
A total of 643 images including a group of 3 snow leopards (probably 2 sub adults with a mother) were photographed during an intensive camera trapping session of 560 nights in Khunjerab National Park (KNP) during Nov-Dec. 2010,conducted by the Snow Leopard Foundation, Pakistan in collaboration with the Directorate of KNP andGilgit-Baltistan Forest and Wildlife Department. The cameras captured many other wild species as well.
The Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserve viable populationsof snow leopards and other wild carnivores as an integral part of landscapes across Pakistan, whileimproving the socio-economic condition of the people who share the fragile mountain ecosystem with thewildlife.
The SLF works in partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust and Panthera, the two leadinginternational wild cat conservation organizations, and operates in three core sectors: research andmonitoring, community based conservation programs, and conservation education and awareness.
Its haspioneered state-of-the-art research tools in Pakistan and operating in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khybger-Pakhtunkhaw, and Azad Jamu and Kashmir. The current study was undertaken in KNP from November, 23 to December 31, 2010 and was aimed atassessing the status of snow leopard as well as other carnivores, their key prey species, and human-carnivore conflict.
The study also tested affect of different kinds of baits on camera trapping success.In addition to camera trapping, more than 1400 km² area was scanned during occupancy surveys and 150fecal samples were collected for genetic analysis.
The study provided a rare learning opportunity to the staffof the Wildlife Department, and students from national and international universities, who were engaged.Once data analysis is completed, the study will provide more reliable estimates of snow leopard in the parkbesides highlighting existing management/monitoring limitations and ultimately help better manage the park resources in the longer run.Panthera provided financial support for this study.