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Climate Change a grave threat to endangered snow leopard in Pakistan: Minister

Islamabad, March 16, 2015 (PPI-OT): Federal Minister for Climate change, Mushahid Ullah Khan has said that receding glaciers in Pakistan’s north post a severe threat to the snow leopards. Citing other another major reason for their declining population is that they are actively hunted for their body parts, which some cultures believe have great medicinal value. As demand has grown, so has the sophistication of poaching rings, the minister says.

The minister said, “Glacial area in Pakistan’s north is spread over 16933 square kilometre, which provides remarkable habitat for the endangered snow leopard but these habitats are vanishing due to rapidly melting glaciers as average temperatures in the northern pars soar.”

He was talking to media at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto International Airport Islamabad today before leaving for Bishkek, capital of the Kyrgyzstan, where he will attend first two-day meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) programme’s steering committee.

The meeting will begin on March 19 in Bishkek and will be attended by ministers of 12 countries including Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Russia. The GSLEP steering committee is a high-level body tasked with guiding the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Plan’s implementation.

This meeting will present an excellent opportunity to review and sharply align the various elements of management and implementation of the program, and to infuse a measure of urgency in the programme’s implementation at the frontline.

Besides, the meeting’s focus will be on discussing near- and long-term strategies for resource mobilization, and discussing the status of development of the management plans for the Program’s 23 target landscapes. Further agenda items include the formalization of structures, roles and processes of both the GSLEP steering committee and program secretariat.

Mushahid Ullah Khan told media that only about 4,000 – 6,500 snow leopards are alive today but the number is falling fast Poaching, hunting and climate change are among major threats they face, which are found only in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

A 7-year approx. $200 mln strategy is being planned to conserve these rare animals. “Snow leopards are in trouble – and only humans can help by joining governments’ efforts aimed at controlling their illegal hunting and poaching at all levels,” the minister urged.

He hoped that joint efforts across countries to be pledged at the GSEP meeting in Bishkek will help protect snow leopards from extinction and yield a range of positive results, such as preserving biodiversity.

Mushahid Ullah Khan also added that a big part of the GSLEP strategy will be focused on educating rural mountain and herder communities about the need to protect snow leopards, engaging them in conservation efforts, and helping them have sustainable livelihoods, to prevent an overlap in food sources. He, however, pledge to work with governments part of GSLEP programme to combat poaching and illegal trade networks.

Snow leopards typically hunt wild prey like Argali sheep for food. Since local communities and herders also hunt the same animals, snow leopards attack local livestock – sheep, goats, and yak calves, for example — to compensate. In turn, the locals kill snow leopards to protect their livestock. Growing human settlements also cut into these animals’ natural habitats, leaving them with lesser space to live and hunt.

For more information, contact:
Muhammad Saleem
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, ISLAMABAD
Ph: 051-9245565
E-mail: moccpakistan@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.mocc.gov.pk/

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