Snow Leopard
Small Carnivores


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Snow leopard (Uncia uncia)

Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) classified as an endangered species by the IUCN is disappearing from many parts of its formally vast range, an area in excess of 2.5million square kilometers. This beautiful yet mysterious cat is found sporadically through the mountains of central and south Asia. Snow leopards are one of the most endangered of all the large cats and may number few as 3500 in the wild, despite inhabiting 12 countries in central and south Asia including Pakistan. In Pakistan there might be no more than 250-350 cats and approximately 30-36 in Chitral district.

Snow leopard a single species at the top of the food chain is considered an indicator of healthy mountain ecosystems. Unfortunately, not only its historical range has become increasingly fragmented, but also its population has declined significantly due to widespread poaching for pelt and bones, retribution from pastoralist and rapidly dwindling natural prey base.

Snow Leopard Conservation Program, Pakistan
This program is the joint venture of Snow leopard Foundation (SLF) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Pakistan with major financial support of Snow leopard Trust and Panthera Corporation. The program was formally launched in Chitral and Northern Areas in 2000.

The Organizations

Snow Leopard Foundation
SLF is a non profit conservation organization in Pakistan, which represents the two world’s leading conservation organizations i.e. Snow leopard trust and Panthera Corporation and is aimed at conserving viable populations of snow leopards and other carnivores as an integral part of landscapes across Pakistan, while improving the lives of mountain people who share the habitats with predators. The objectives of the SLF include:

  • Enhance tolerance and build support for the conservation of the snow leopard and other carnivores in Pakistan.

  • Develop and promote sound stewardship of snow leopards and other carnivores through scientifically based population, habitat, and natural resource use management.

  •  Promote the snow leopard as the flagship for the conservation of montane wildlife of Pakistan.

  • Fill gaps in conservation related information through fostering well-targeted research on snow leopards, other carnivores, their prey species, and habitats.

  • Enhance public awareness and understanding of now leopard ecology, conservation status and needs, and management.

  • Support government in improving functionality and management of Protected Areas and enabling sound conservation policies.

  • Promote environment, develop capacity, and facilitate ecological research in Pakistan.
    WWF-Pakistan established its office in Chitral in 1993 with the inception of Migratory Birds Conservation Project.

Since its inception in 1960, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been working towards the conservation of natural resources of the world. With its global Secretariat in Switzerland, WWF International provides a collective voice for matters affecting the natural environment of the world and coordinates activities of the global WWF family.
WWF – Pakistan, established in 1970, strives to carry out the global conservation initiatives within the context of national priorities. Our aim is to protect and improve the country’s environment, and to integrate the environmental principles with other policies across the governmental and private sectors. WWF – Pakistan has seen an exceptional growth in the last two years. It has its Head Office in Lahore and 296 regular employees within 6 Regional Offices, 2 Programme Offices and 17 Project Site Offices.
WWF has identified six global priority areas of conservation work. They are: Forests, Freshwater, Marine, Species, Climate Change and Toxics. Projects have been undertaken based on these programmes to address gaps in and bring about incremental improvement.

WWF aims to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by:

  • Conserving the world’s biological diversity

  • Ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable

  • Promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption

Goal and objectives of the Pakistan Program
Over all goal of Snow leopard Conservation Program Pakistan is to conserve snow leopard and its fragile ecosystem in Pakistan by improving knowledge, minimizing perils of poaching of snow leopards and its natural prey through community-based sustainable conservation actions, conservation education interventions, and assisting in law enforcement.

Program Components
Research & Monitoring
This component aims at improving our scientific knowledge about snow leopards, their prey-base, and habitat through latest assessment techniques including;
• Human-Cat interaction surveys
• Sign surveys (SLIMS & Occupancy Surveys)
• Camera Trapping
• Radio-collaring
• Genetic analysis

The program has so for been able to conduct Human-Cat interaction and sign surveys using internationally recommended survey protocols in major parts of Chitral District and some areas of NA and AJK. The data collected through these studies are used to prioritize areas for the initiation of conservation programs besides understand trends in the population status of the cat and its major prey-base.

Camera trapping studies have been initiated in protected areas of Chitral District to assess the absolute abundance of the cat as well as other predators.


CamTrakker™ Ranger, Watkinsville, GA, USA were used for these studies. The system is a waterproof unit housing a 35mm camera, requiring four AA, one 1.5v lithium, and one 6v rechargeable, lead acid batteries. The system is triggered when a moving animal with a higher body temperature than the ambient temperature crosses the camera detection zone. This system can be set for a 20 second up to a 45 minute delay between pictures, and also set for day, night, or continuous operation. The delay function limits the number of pictures taken when a non-target species trips the system or remains in front of the camera for a period of time, reducing the chance that a complete roll of film could be taken of a single, non-target species.

The first ever, Capture and collaring study using GPS collars was initiated in Chitral Gol National Park in 2006. Aldrich-type foot snares were used to capture the cats using standard methods and equipment. A total of 804 trap nights resulted in three captures of one female snow leopard.

The first snow leopard was captured on 17 November 2006 at lower Purdum Mali Ridge. The 35 kg female cat was immobilized with 1.25ml of Zoletile delivered via blow dart. The sedated cat was fitted with a GPS-Argos collar, weighed, and morphological measurements were taken. Her measurements were as follows: 65.5 cm chest, 40 cm neck, 91 cm tail, 106 cm body length, 13.7 cm zygomatic bone, 18.2 cm skull.

The female snow leopard was fitted with a GPS-Argos satellite collar (Telonics, Inc.) in an attempt to gain critical data on her home-range size, movement and activity patterns, use of travel corridors, intra-specific distances (avoidance of con-specifics), and human-snow leopard interactions (analyzing snow leopard habitat use in relation to human habitation and livestock pastures). Initial findings of the study revealed the home range of the cat to be more than 1500km² depicting very low density.

Similarly, samples (scats) of carnivores were collected from various parts of the district for genetic analysis and study their food preferences. Scats contain stomach cells and hairs which carry of DNA material of the species. Genetic studies help in identifying individuals, estimate species numbers and detect change overtime.

Community-based Conservation Programs
Community based conservation programs aim to manage and ameliorate the conflict between wildlife conservation and economic development by encouraging rural communities to balance their monetary needs with their respect for environment. Conservation programs include;

  • Animal Health & Vaccination Program

  • Snow leopard enterprise (SLE)

Animal Health & Vaccination Program
This program was initiated in Chitral District, NWFP, Pakistan in 2003. This 5-year program has been completed at the first pilot site, the Kuju village, and is near completion at the second site, the Parsan village. The public acceptance and success of the program encouraged to expand the program into the four new villages of Mori Payeen, Koghozi, Barkhozi, and Bakhtoli in December 2007 and five villages i.e. Sor-Laspur, Balim, Drungagh, Rech, and Ujnu in 2009.

The objective of the program was to build support and promote conducive environment for snow leopard. Our recent community survey find enhanced public tolerance, because 92% people from the program sites are willing to increase population of snow leopard despite of high depredation rates. Large carnivores generally do not get such level of acceptance, for example 34-44% of the Norwegian people want to reduce or exterminate large carnivores (Røskaft et al. 2007), and wolves and coyotes are the least liked animals in North America (Kellert 1985). Besides admiring beauty and ecological role of the cat, majority people link presence of snow leopards to the community support programs like the vaccination program. An annual eight percent increase in signs of the snow leopard, captured in SLIMS surveys conducted between 2001-2007 in the area, suggest that the human acceptance has been well translated into population growth of the cat.

Snow leopard Enterprise
Snow Leopard Enterprises offers opportunities to livestock owners and general community members specially women folk to increase their household income in return for a commitment to protect the snow leopard and its natural prey.

SLE participants live in remote settings far from markets. By providing an outlet for traditional handicrafts, SLE helps herding families and woman in particular, to greatly increase their income. In most areas where SLE works i.e. in Kuju and Parsan villages, there is a strong tradition of handicraft making. SLE offers additional training, basic tools, and design ideas that make products easy to sell on a broad market. Products are ordered once a year and collected at set times. Products are developed both for national, local and international markets. Products are marketed by project through various wholesale and retail venues, including an on-line store and zoo gift stores in the USA. The Handicrafts are marketed as “fair trade products”, the producers receive a fair value for their product. SLT serves as a marketer only, and in a non-profit fashion. Because the program is based on sound business principles, it is sustainable and will have a long lasting social and environmental impact.

At current the program is active in the two villages of Chitral district and the products include embroidered napkins (International market) and woolen sweaters (local market). The entrepreneurs are paid 30%bonus on the base price at the end of the year, provided no violation of the agreement was made by the communities. 15% of the bonus is deposited in the Snow leopard Conservation Fund (SLCF) developed to assure the sustainability of the program. Skill centers have been established and equipped with necessary accessories.

Another SLE initiative is Honey-bee farming, which was introduced in the third project site i.e. Koghozi in 2009. Fifteen women were trained in bee rearing and provided bee colonies.

Education & awareness
One of the major threats to the survival of Snow leopard is the lack of awareness and support. The overall goal of this component is to inculcate sense of stewardship and love for snow leopard and its fragile mountain ecosystem in the communities through trainings, awareness campaigns, and developing recourse materials.
Nature clubs have been established in schools falling in the program sites and are equipped with needed resource materials. Strategic Plan for the conservation of snow leopards in Pakistan has been approved from the ministry and conservation education & awareness strategy for Snow Leopard Conservation Program has been drafted.

3. Future Plan
• Strengthen the existing programs
• Expansion of the programs to the rest of the snow leopard range of the country


Project Documents:

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