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February 22, 2016

Leopards, Himalayan bears facing extinction in Hazara


February 22, 2016

ABBOTTABAD:  Leopard and bear attacks on humans and cattle in upper Hazara witness an increase in snowy and winter season, resulting in killing of these rare wild animals at the hands of locals.

“Every year unknown number of leopards and Himalayan bears get killed by villagers in self-defence or by poachers who sell their hides,” stated a wildlife expert.

Northern areas of Pakistan are natural habitat of two rare breeds of bears - brown and Himalayan. Both are endangered species. Brown bear is found in extreme north of Gilgit-Baltistan. Himalayan bear, black in colour, is native of Kaghan valley and upper parts of Battagram district.

Himalayan bear traces have been found in some parts of Abbottabad district, including Mangal, Qalandarabad, Banda Pir Khan and Thandiyani.There is no such accurate mechanism to know the exact number of Himalayan bears or common leopards.

A wildlife official said that leopard population in Hazara could be anywhere between 75 to 100 and its territory begins from Margalla hills and ends in upper Kaghan valley. Territory marked by one leopard is around 50 square kilometres. However, a wildlife expert said that no one knows how many leopards are killed each year by villagers and poachers. When we do not know the number of leopards killed every year, how can we claim to be exact about the population of common leopards, he questioned.

Dr Mumtaz Malik, a former chief conservator, Wildlife Department and presently advisor to Forestry & Wildlife Management, University of Haripur, told The News that Panthra Pardus, commonly known as common leopard, usually feeds on rabbits, foxes, wild bores and monkeys. 

He said that attacks on humans by leopards increase in summer only when a human accidently intrudes into their territory. Female leopard nursing cubs can attack a human to protect her cubs.

Leopards usually avoid populated areas. They go to villages in search of food in winters when they cannot find food in snowy area. Cattle and domestic or stray dogs are the easy prey for these beasts.

On the other hand, Himalayan bear seldom comes to populated villages or hamlets. Bear attacks usually occur in thick forests and their victims are either shepherds or villagers who go to forests to collect fodder or wood.

In the meantime, killing of both of these endangered species by the poachers continue. Black Himalayan bear is mostly killed to collect its fat (shortening), which is believed to be a cure for paralysis or dead muscles in human body. Bear fat is melted and rubbed like an ointment or gel over the damaged tissue or muscle to heel it.

On the other hand, leopards are killed to sell their hide in black market, which can be sold for Rs500,000. Some wildlife experts believe that the government should formulate a policy of conservation of wildlife, especially the endangered species along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through the heart of northern areas of Pakistan, a natural habitat of these species facing extinction.

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