Snow Leopard Cub taken from the Wild in Pakistan gets new Home

Snow Leopard Cub taken from the Wild in Pakistan gets new Home
Thursday, 4 December, 2014
Yarmouth Port, MA

An orphaned snow leopard taken from the wild and placed in a small cage on the side of Pakistan’s Karakoram highway will get a new home thanks to Snow Leopard Foundation, Parks and Wildlife Department, Gilgit-Baltistan, US State Department’s Embassy in Islamabad, Snow Leopard Trust, Snow Leopard Conservancy and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The partnership is funding the construction of a new and specially designed 11,000 square foot wildlife care facility that will house the endangered snow leopard and provide a one-of-a-kind educational and public awareness venue in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region.

On Dec. 31, 2012 local villagers found a wild snow leopard cub, only a few months old at the time, and took it with them in hopes of protecting it from harm. After the cub’s capture nearly two years ago, the Wildlife Department in Gilgit-Baltistan looked to international experts to consult on the possibility of releasing the young snow leopard back into the wild.  The decision was made against trying to release this particular cat since it now lacks all of the skills necessary to hunt and fend for itself.

Exposed to heat, traffic emissions, and frequent provocation by onlookers, Dr. Ali Nawaz, head of the Snow Leopard Foundation of Pakistan, calls this “an untenable situation for this wild animal.”

In collaboration with international experts at Nordens Ark, a leader in wildlife care and rescue, Jaffar Ud Din, program manager at the Snow Leopard Foundation, led the development of designs for a facility house the endangered leopard. Construction is set to begin at the selected location in Naltar Valley in early 2015. This new facility will also host a Wildlife Education Center, where the public can learn about the snow leopard, its ecosystem, and the threats it faces.

“We are very happy to contribute in this effort to ensure that the snow leopard gets an adequate quality of life,” says Katie Moore, IFAW Director of Animal Rescue. “It is our hope that her story carries an enduring message on the importance of leaving wildlife in the wild.”

“The U.S. Mission to Pakistan welcomes the opportunity to support the Pakistani and American organizations protecting this at-risk cub. The snow leopard has been called a national heritage animal of Pakistan, and we are confident that this project will help to educate the next generation on wildlife protection and stewardship principles” says Ambassador Richard Olson.

 “The cub will be an important intermediary and ambassador between local people and wildlife,” Ali Nawaz agrees. Since communities play a ‘front line’ role in wildlife conservation, lack of awareness and environmental sensitivity are considered prominent threats to wildlife.

“One of the Education Center’s main purposes is to help people understand that it’s almost always best to leave wildlife in the wild, even young cubs” says Brad Rutherford, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director.

Local people felt they needed to rescue this particular cub because they were worried it would die of exposure. However, Rutherford affirms that, “often, mothers will return for their babies even when it appears they might have abandoned them."

“One of our aims through the education portion of the facility is to help people to understand and decipher when and why it is okay to leave animals in the wild—even if they seem to be lost”, he adds.

“Gilgit-Baltistan is taken as the living museum for wildlife and hence encounter with wildlife in the wild is a common phenomena but we often come across embarrassing situations due to the unavailability of proper care and housing facility in the region, says Mr. Ghulam Muhammad, Conservator, Parks and Wildlife Department, Gilgit-Baltistan. “The current initiative will help boost conservation efforts in the region”, he adds.   

    

 The Snow Leopard Conservancy’s founder and director Dr. Rodney Jackson agrees:

 “We believe every snow leopard deserves a better and more secure future. That being said, it is important to make sure local people in Pakistan, or anywhere else, will no longer separate a cub from its mother or remove it from the wild.  We hope that this snow leopard will serve a useful role as an Ambassador animal, offering people who rarely see a snow leopard with the opportunity to marvel at its beauty and ensure other wild snow leopards are allowed to roam free from threats.”

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

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