Gilgit, October 27: WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with Uswa School System, Society for Threatened Species (C.S.T.S) Forest, Wildlife and Parks Department, Government of Gilgit-Baltistan (GoGB) organized an awareness program on “International Snow Leopard Day” for the local youth, students, teachers and livestock herders with the financial support of “Islamabad United (IU)” at Uswa public school Hoper valley, Nagar. The purpose of the awareness programme was to impart knowledge about climate change impacts and importance of Snow leopard for the health of mountain ecosystems.
Speaking to the occasion Mr. Saeed Abbas, Conservation Manager/Regional Head, WWF-Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan) said that the Snow leopard is the symbol of Asia’s high mountains, plays a vital role as the indicator of ecosystem health in the harsh terrain it shares with many other species of wildlife and increasing communities of pastoralists. It is also increasingly threatened across its range due to a number of threats, including human-snow leopard conflict, climate change, habitat fragmentation, reduction of prey base etc, that is why for Pakistan only 200 to 350 snow leopards are estimated to be left alive in wild despite of a large habitat (80,000 Sq. km). “He emphasized on developing and implementing human-wildlife conflict mitigation and climate change adaption plans in the entire habitat of Snow leopard.
Mr. Yaqoob Ali Khan, Conservator Wildlife and Parks, GoGB appreciated the efforts of WWF-Pakistan, Islamabad United and Uswa School System for arranging a gathering the relevant stakeholders and highlighting the importance of Snow leopard educating marginalized mountain communities about the climate change impacts and urged mass level plantation measures as mitigation and developing climate change adaptation plans to cope with changing climatic conditions. He also announced to give PKR. 50,000 from his Department to Uswa public School Hoper, Nagar for the upcoming spring tree plantation campaign. He further added that Government of Pakistan with financial assistance of GEF-UNDP has allocated 4.5 million UD$ for the landscape level conservation of Snow leopard and to achieve the ambitious goal of Global Snow leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), “To secure 20 Snow leopard landscape across its range by 2020”.
Mr. Ali Ahmed Jan, Academic Advisor Friend Education and Medical Trust appreciated the efforts of teachers and students for depicting knowledge relating to snow leopard, ecosystem and responsibilities of the local communities in a true scientific way through art and skit. He also congratulated WWF-Pakistan and Islamabad United for arranging such a successful event for communities sharing the habitat of valuable wildlife including snow leopards.
Mr. Shahid Hussain Nayab, Principal, Uswa public school Hoper emphasized on conservation of iconic and flagship species of snow leopard and other wildlife and thanked WWF-Pakistan and Islamabad United for organizing such noteworthy event for students and said that this has not only educated the students but also improved the level of understandings of teachers about the importance and sustainability of nature and natural resources.
Inter-school competition on three categories, viz; art competition on “Threats to Snow leopard in Gilgit-Baltistan”, speech competition on “Importance of Snow leopard for Ecosystem” and Skit competition on “Role of local communities in Natural Resource Conservation and Management” was organized among schools of three districts. Six schools from three districts (Gilgit, Hunza and Nagar) participated in the competition and overall more than 500 people including students, teachers, local elders and livestock herders mostly male and female youth from the locale participated in the program.
Primary objective of the programme was to improve knowledge and understanding about climate change and threatened Snow leopard, particularly the role of Snow leopard in maintaining the ecological health of alpine and sub-alpine pastures.
The position holders were given the prizes contributed by Islamabad United, including the Shirts, Mugs and bats signed by Islamabad United players and token of appreciations by WWF-Pakistan.