Study on snow leopard poaching suggests for coordinated information sharing to curb menace

By Staff Reporter | Pakistan News Today Mar 12, 2022

PESHAWAR, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 11th Mar, 2022 ) :A recent study on snow leopard poaching has laid stress on developing multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism for information sharing at regional, national and international level for protection of a very rare and highly endangered wild specie.

The study also suggested for improving existing laws and surveillance system, while taking the local communities onboard.

Published in Nature Conservation Journal in March2022, the story is titled as `Drivers ofsnowleopard poaching and trade in Pakistan and implication for management'.

The research paper is authored by eleven experts including Jaffar ud Din, FathulBari, Hussain Ali, Ejaz ur Rehman, Durriyyah Sharifah Hasan Adil, Nurul Ashikin Abdullah, Yusoff Norma Rashid, Muhammad Kabir, Shoaib Hameed, Doost Ali Nawaz and Muhammad AliNawaz of Snow Leopard Pakistan.

To understand the dynamics and drivers of poaching and trading of snow leopard, the team investigated through holding multifaceted survey in the snow leopard range in Pakistan, spreading over an area of around 80,000 square kilometers.

The team members recorded 101 snow leopard poaching in cidences from 11 districts from period starting from 2005 to 2017. The survey was conducted from December 2017 to June2018.

Potential pelt markets in major cities outside the snowmleopard range including Swat, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi were also surveyed.

A total of 97 shops in 17 different markets were visited as potential buyers and dealers of pelts and other parts of snow leopard.

Research revealed that in 101 incidences of snow leopard killing, poaching and trade constituted 89 percent, 66 percent of animal shooting, poisoned 12 percent, snared 12 percent and captured 4 percent.

Trade routes included large cities and neighbouring countries while the average base and endpricefor each item were 245 to 1736 US dollars.

According to study, with a debatable global status and population estimates of between 4000 to 8000 cats in the wild, poaching remains one of the main threat to snowleopards.

Laws protecting wildlife and endangered species in Pakistan evolved progressively over the last 50 years. While during these years gaps and poor enforcement of the existing laws have encouraged and benefited wildlife traders, reads the study.

Researchers opined that continuation of wildlife trade is because of weak enforcement of wildlife protection laws, difficult access areas, gaps in existing regulation and differences in laws protecting snowleopard poaching at regional and international level.

One such example of weakness in the laws can be seen in the case of snowleopard poaching where the minimum penalty is Rs. 30,000 and maximum punishment is six months imprisonment.

Wile the pelt and other body parts thus obtained can generate thousands of USDollars, showing a large difference betweenfineand financial gain that serve as temptation for poachers.

Moreover the growing use of modern technology such as internet and social media has greatly increased the chances and ways to trade wildlife species illicitly, the study observes.

The study did not found the practices of use of snowleopard body parts for traditional medicine in Pakistan. Rather poaching is taken as a matter of honor, bravery, pride and exhibition.

The study also suggested increase patrolling and surveillance in snowleopard range of the country which mostly constitute high altitude snowclad mountains where the specie dwells.

It also finds that strength of the field staff was less than one person per 100 square kilometers and most of the staff lacked proper field gear and transport facility.

The study calculates that around eight snowleopards were reportedly poached and traded per year which constitutes two to four percent of the total snowleopard population ranging around 200 to 420 in the country.

It also observed that two to four percent population loss would seem not to affected snowleopard population in the country.

However, it added, documentation of poaching and trade in iconic species, such as snowleopard, is very difficult due to secretive nature of thebusiness, fear of reporting incidences and the lucrative monetary benefits with the illegal wildlife trade.

The study concludes with observations that black markets exist not only regionally and nationally but internationally, laws protecting wildlife have loopholes and provide outlets to culprits for escape.

These gaps can be filled by improving existing laws and enhancing the strength of patrolling staff by equipping them with the required facilities.

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