The Himalayan ecosystem in northern Pakistan has critical importance for the biodiversity of global significance. It harbors life-support system and provides essential ecosystem services for millions of people including the remote agro-pastoral communities. This region encompasses range of snow leopard that extends from the Central and Southern Asia across twelve range countries. The landscapes are under severe threat from high dependence of local communities on natural resources, ill planned economic development, removal of medicinal plants, illegal wildlife trade and wildlife crime. To address these threats, the 5-years project “Pakistan Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program” was developed and is being implemented by the Snow Leopard Foundation in collaboration with Ministry of Climate Change and UNDP-Pakistan with funding (US$4.64 million) from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) since, September, 2018. Wildlife departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and AJ&K are the coordinating agencies at province/State level. The project objective is to promote a landscape approach for the survival of snow leopard and its prey species by reducing threats and applying sustainable land and forest management in critical habitats in Northern Pakistan. Key outcomes and outputs of the project are as under:
Outcome 1: Improved management of snow leopard landscapes that integrates sustainable forest/land management and compatible conservation practice. Outputs include (i) develop coordination and governance mechanisms at landscape level; (ii) landscape level management strategies developed; (iii) participatory monitoring for snow leopard, other endangered and prey species and (iv) strategy developed and implemented to facilitate replication of integrated landscape planning and management model to other sites.
Outcome 2: Increased representation of priority snow leopard ecosystems in the Protected Area (PA) network. The outputs are; (1) identification, mapping and gazettal of new PAs; (2) management and financial plans for priority PAs developed and approved by the government; (3) capacity of forest and wildlife staff enhanced and (4) wildlife agencies have information on hotspots and pathways of Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT).
Outcome 3: Participatory conservation in the targeted landscape enhanced to reduce human-snow leopard conflicts and improve livelihoods of community. The outputs are (i) valley conservation plans designed and implemented; (ii) pilot projects on NRM, sustainable livelihood and solutions to reduce wildlife-human conflicts and (iii) community-based surveillance, monitoring and wildlife crime prevention mechanisms developed and implemented.
Outcome 4: Conservation and management approaches supported by effective knowledge management and gender mainstreaming”. The outputs include (1) communication, gender mainstreaming and monitoring and evaluation strategies developed and implemented; (2) project implementation and achievements inform policy and legislative changes relating to integrated landscape management and (3) knowledge management is coordinated with global, regional and national programs to improve cooperation and research on snow leopard conservation.
The project has established a National Project Management Unit in Islamabad and three Regional Project Management Units in KP, GB and AJK. The Project Board was notified and its four meetings were convened. One Landscape management plan and 12 Valley Conservation and Development plans were drafted. Ungulate surveys were conducted and genetic samples were collected from 40 valleys in the three snow leopard landscapes. Tourists Information Center, Glamping site and Wildlife View Point were established to promote conservation tourism in Hopper valley. ~200,000 livestock are biannually vaccinated by 33 community members trained as Livestock Health Workers. Thirty predator proof Corrals and 16 Livestock Insurance Schemes have been constructed. In Chitral and Neelum, AJ&K, ~350 hectares of degraded rangelands/pastures were protected through reseeding, protection from livestock grazing and water harvesting. Improved fodder was demonstrated on 50 hectares in 8 valleys in GB and KP. Community Forest guards were engaged to ensure regeneration of forest species in 10 forest Closures. Planted 150,000 forest and 21,000 fruit plant saplings. LPG connections were provided to 140 households in AJ&K. To protect wildlife in project sites, 42 Community wildlife guards were engaged. Women artisan from Chitral were trained in embroidery and sample products developed by them are being marketed. Global Snow leopard Day is celebrated each year. Snow leopard clubs have been established. Thirty-two Snow leopard Clubs were established and nature study camps organized. Conservation Chronicles was printed and distributed among stakeholders to highlight SLF achievements. Documentaries and resource materials were developed and disseminated.