SKARDU: (PR) The Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization (BWCDO) organized and celebrated International Snow Leopard Day in Basha Valley Shigar Baltistan, in collaboration with various schools in Basha, the Education, Forest and Wildlife Departments, Iqra Fund, and the local community.
Each year BWCDO celebrates this event with full zeal and enthusiasm. The first international Snow Leopard day took place on October 23, 2014. The main goal of the event was to raise awareness of the importance of snow leopard conservation, to emphasis the efforts done by communities and organizations in the area. More than 1000 school students attended as well as the Deputy Commissioner of Shigar, local officers from Education Department of Shigar, officers from Forest and Wildlife Departments, Baltistan Press and Electronic Media and local community members.
Basha Valley is a remote area, located 100 kilometers form Skardu City. The settlements in the valley are dependent on farming and livestock as a means for their livelihood. Basha valley Shigar is famous for its natural resources and also for the hot springs, glaciers, peaks, wildlife and livestock. Due to lack of education and awareness, the community was not aware about its importance. BWCDO has been working on snow leopard conservation in collaboration with the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) for twelve years.
Each year, BWCDO organizes conservation awareness sessions for school children and local communities. The purpose of these events is manly to raise awareness, build confidence of the students and involve local communities in snow leopard conservation.
Thirteen school students from Tisar to Basha Valley Shigar participated in the speech, poem and drawing competitions. The competitions were held under the theme of conservation of snow leopard and its importance.
The chief guest Mr. Zakir Hussain Deputy Commissioner Shigar District speaking to the audience noted that the work done by BWCDO and Iqra Fund is very commendable and appreciated. He is keenly interested to keep continue such initiatives. He stressed that he was thrilled to see the performance by the students, and highlighted that they have lots of talent. He highlighted the lack of resources as main hurdle but noted that this partnership is a great example of public and private sector partnership where students are not only getting routine classes but also learning education related to environment and wildlife conservation. He said this will help them to become good citizen. He said that he intends to promote conservation and would like to initiate the trophy hunting program in Basha valley Shigar with the involvement of BWCDO’s expertise with government wildlife department.
Speaking to the audience Iftikhar Ali, District Forest Officer, Forest Department, stated that BWCDO has done tremendous work in the area for the conservation of snow leopard. He is very impressed to see it. Forest department valued the efforts done by BWCDO in the region for the conservation of wildlife particularly snow leopard. Forest and Wildlife Department will continue support BWCDO. He appreciated BWCDO role in the area.
Speaking to the audience Qasim Butt President Press Club Baltistan, emphasized he has visited other areas of Baltistan where BWCDO has done a remarkable job. He feels always immense pleasure to participate in BWCDO’s event. The children of the area have lots of hidden talents, especially the girls but these talents can’t be discovered without provision of forum like this.
While talking to the audience, Chief Executive Officer BWCDO, Mr. Ghulam Muhammad, welcomed and thanked the community members, school children, VCC members, VEC members, all government departments, Iqra Fund, Forest and Wildlife Department, District Administration and Education department for their support and participation in the International Snow Leopard Day. He said that BWCDO is working in Basha valley since 2005. BWCDO’s slogan is to Save the Snow Leopard. The main objective of celebration of international snow leopard day is to raise the awareness and importance to the school children and community members. He said that BWCDO provides social and economic benefits to alleviate hardships caused by snow leopard through community involvement. He briefed about the BWCDO’s programs in the region. BWCDO has constructed many predator proof corrals and launched insurance scheme in the community; this will help them to protect their livestock from wildlife. He said that to reduce the poverty and issues related to environment; education is the best tool to help. Without education nothing can be done. He also briefed about the Iqra Fund programs in the area. Iqra Fund started education in the area with 64 girls in 2012 now there are more than 1000 girls getting education.
Mr. Muhammad shared that this day commemorates when the twelve snow leopard range countries endorsed the Bishkek Declaration during the Global Snow Leopard Forum in 2013. BWCDO has the honor to celebrate this day with the school children and local communities who are the real stakeholders. This day is a globally celebrated one.
Speaking to the audience, Mr. Muhammad Khan (Deputy Director Education Shigar) emphasized that they always praise and value BWCDO and Iqra Fund Support. Education department is thankful to BWCDO and Iqra Fund. They will continue their support. He noted that more than 43 competent teachers have been trained thanks to Iqra Fund in the area and that is remarkable.
The community representative Manzoor Hussain, said that BWCDO is the organization whose support to the community is commendable. Due to BWCDO efforts, the community is becoming aware about wildlife. They want to strengthen collaboration with BWCDO.
Students in the speeches and poem emphasized about the key challenges and issues related to wildlife and environment.
At the end the chief guest and other guests distributed the prizes to the students who got first, second and third positions.