snow leopards Afghanistan

The World Wildlife Fund has expressed concerns regarding one of the world’s most endangered species – Snow Leopard, saying the already endangered species are on the verge of extinction.

The international non-governmental organization which works in the field of the biodiversity conservation, released its report regarding the endangered species.

Titled ‘Fragile Connections: Snow leopards, people, water and the global climate‘, the report the negative effects of climate change could completely wipe out the remaining leopards.

The report is released amid optimisms the species are rebounding in Afghanistan with recent pictures emerging from the remote Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Badakhshan province.

It has been estimated that that a surprisingly robust population of a possibly a hundred animals prowling the remote area.

Peter Zahler, who launched the Widlife Conservation Society’s Afghanistan program in 2006, said earlier that “Afghanistan has been devastated by 30 years of conflict, so you might not expect there be a lot of large wildlife left. But there doe appear to be a fairly large population of snow leopards, and that’s wonderful.”

However, Sami Tornikoski, leader of the WWF’s Living Himalayas Initiative, said “Climate change is a major risk, but we also need to concentrate on other factors. Snow leopards won’t survive for long unless we tackle climate change alongside other threats such as poaching, retaliatory killings by herders, declining prey species, and poorly planned development.”

According to the report by WWF, snow leopards require a large swath of territory and the traditional habitat of snow leopards spans across the mountain highlands of 12 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The report further added that only 14 percent of these mountains have been researched or subject to conservation efforts, as evidenced by the 200-plus new species recently discovered in Central Asia.

WWF also warned that the climate change will not only affect the snow leopards as many mountain communities and nearly all the communities lying at the base of the mountains, rely on a complex water system of winter storms, snow melt, and monsoons. This cycle affects 21 countries in the area, including China, which is particularly vulnerable.

The report stated “Climate change could drastically alter the flow of water down from the mountains, threatening the livelihoods of vast numbers of people across the continent.”

The report also added that the tree line would be shifted higher up the mountain with the increased global temperatures. Not only will this make it more difficult for snow leopards to hunt prey, it will also make the air dryer, shift the timing of water availability, and possibly melt the permafrost and glaciers.

The snow leopard is a moderately large cat, and are widely but sparsely distributed throughout the mountains of Central Asia.
The cats freely cross the international boundaries of 12 countries, their secretive behavior and remote habitat among the highest mountains in the world add to their mystery.

Snow leopards have been described as shape-changing mountain spirits because of their mystical ability to disappear among the rocks.

Previous estimates have suggested that perhaps only 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards – considered endangered by the international Union for Conservation of Nature – live throughout the mountain ranges of Central Asia.

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  • Khaama Press

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