ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan on Friday pledged all out efforts for conservation and protection of snow leopard in the country.
Addressing a press conference here, the minister pledged to meet conservationists and wildlife experts from all over the country and tap their expertise for conservation and protection of snow leopard in Pakistan, which is fast nearing extinction due to illegal hunting and various threats.
He said that habitat degradation and fragmentation, reduction of natural prey due to illegal hunting, retribution killing for livestock loss and now recently melting glaciers due to global warming are among threats that have brought the beautiful cat to near extinction, which is integral part of biodiversity and natural beauty.
He said that as a part of present government’s commitment regarding biodiversity conservation and protection at all levels, all-out efforts will be made in support with the conservationists and wildlife experts to save snow leopard from extinction.
“In recognisation of present government’s efforts for protection and conservation of the snow leopard, I was unanimously elected as chairman of the 12 countries global steering committee of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Programme after representatives of the 12 range countries,where snow leopard is found, voted in his favour,” the minister informed.
He said that Kyrgyzstan was elected as co-chair of the Global Steering Committee.
The voting was held during the concluding session of the two-day first international steering committee meeting for the GSLEP programme at Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan on March 20 this year, he said.
He said that countries, which cast their votes in Pakistan’s favour included Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Mongolia,Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
He said that this is a remarkable achievement for Pakistan, whose conservation efforts for the snow leopard and ability to lead other 12 snow leopard grange countries was recognized at the global snow leopard conservation forum.
The global meeting was attended by ministers, bureaucrats, and conservation organisations from these 12 countries, he added.
Mushahid Ullah Khan said that the beautiful cat, which lives in Pakistan’s north, is one of the most mysterious animals but unfortunately, its habitat is least explored.
It is symbol of impregnable and majestic mountains of Pakistan and is one of the main indicators of health of highland ecosystems,” the minister highlighted.
This cast species is found in the world’s only 12 range countries and Pakistan is among them. The other countries included Afghanistan, Bhutan, India,Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Talking about total population all over world, Mushahid Ullah Khan said that currently, the global population estimates of snow leopard are between 4,000 and 6,000.
He added in Pakistan, its total population has been estimated between 200 and 400 and is found in different pockets in high mountain tracks of Hindukush,Himalayas and Karakorum spread over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
He said that the population of the beautiful wild cat is fast shrinking due to various threats, adding, it is necessary to change the situation and immediately make decisions on conservation of snow leopards.
Talking about Pakistan’s snow leopard conservation initiatives, the minister said that Pakistan has prepared its National Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (NSLEP) while, a National Steering Committee to implement NSLEP would be established soon.
He said that the objectives of the international Steering Committee of the GSLEP programme are to ensure national governments’ ownership of the Snow Leopard conservation programs to achieve the targets of GSLEP, trans-boundary cooperation for conservation of Snow Leopard Ecosystem and to generate international donor funding for NSLEP and GSLEP.
He said that the government has also firmly decided to establish cells in provinces and Azad Jammu Kashmir as well as Gilgit Baltistan while a national steering committee will be activated under the chairmanship of Minister for Climate Change.