Pakistan

International Snow Leopard Day: Calls for saving this endangered cat from extinction

KARACHI: The international snow leopard day is being observed today to raise awareness for saving this endangered cat from extinction.

The first anniversary of the adoption of the landmark Bishkek Declaration on the conservation of this elusive big cat was adopted on October 23, 2013, at the first Global Forum on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The range countries (Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) also resolved to celebrate 2015 as the International Year of the Snow Leopard.

In Pakistan, over 81’000 sq km area in Karakorum and Hindu Kush mountain ranges of Himalayas is potential habitat of the snow leopard, with an approximate population of 400-450 animals.

According to WWF, snow leopard is a keystone species, typically found at an elevation of 3,000-4,000m. They are the icons and vital components of the biologically rich yet often neglected alpine ecosystems of Central and South Asia. The species is often found in open coniferous forests and high altitude pastures. However, given the rapid degradation of its habitat, the species has an estimated global population of less than 2,500 mature breeding males. Thereby, the snow leopard has been categorized as an endangered species (IUCN Red list, US Endangered Species Act, CITES).

Threat to this endangered species

It is listed as endangered according to IUCN Red list of mammals. Snow leopards are listed on Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which makes it illegal to transport any snow leopard parts across international borders. Poaching, declining prey populations, rangeland overuse, competition with livestock, and retributive killing are the main factors behind the species’ continuing decline and classification as an endangered species.

Clamours for protecting this endangered cat

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