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BE Planting Trees to Save Snow Leopards Saving a species takes creative approaches.


The Snow Leopard Trust and its partner organization in Pakistan, the Snow leopard Foundation, are piloting a unique program to save snow leopards by planting trees.


A Critical Location for Snow Leopards


The country of Pakistan is home to the world’s third largest snow leopard population, so work there is critical. But the cats are threatened by communities facing hard conditions. Many of the communities make their livelihoods from herding. In some communities, herders can lose 1-2 months’ worth of income each year due to snow leopard predation. As a result, reports of community retaliation are not uncommon. For example, in 2010-2011 two snow leopards were killed in Central Karakorum National Park.


Working in 17 villages in Chitral and Gilgit (Fig. 1), our Pakistan Program, the Snow Leopard Foundation of Pakistan (SLF Pakistan) is implementing several community-based conservation initiatives, including livestock vaccination programs, livestock insurance programs and Snow Leopard Enterprise handicraft programs.


Expanding Protection by Planting Trees


In addition to efforts to reduce the threats faced by snow leopards and their habitat, and to strengthen the rapport with the communities, we piloted a new initiative in the Drungagh community of Chitral. In partnership with the local Chitral Forest Department (CFD), members of the Drungagh Village Snow Leopard Conservation Organization (SLCO) transported 5,000 fast growing tree species, Rubina and Poplar, and planted them on communal lands.


Chitral lies in the dry temperate zone of Pakistan with limited-to-no rain in the summer. Winter season is cold and harsh with the main form of precipitation occurring as snow fall. Natural forests in this region are regenerating at very low rates. At the same time, the high demand for firewood in this harsh climate has caused deforestation rates to be very high. This habitat destruction has had a negative impact on the wildlife in these forests. And with the human population increasing day by day, the demand for firewood and timber is only expected to increase.


PARTNER │ PSA


Although the Chitral Forest Department (CFD) and other conservation organizations have recognized this threat and have been working on tree planting projects for many years, they have been unable to curb this threat so far, as forest regeneration is a long term process. Therefore, in partnership, SLF and the CFD set the following objectives for this project:


• To minimize the burden on natural forest. • To provide alternative, sustainable fuel wood in the nearby slopes. • To stabilize slope and reduce land sliding. • To minimize threat to Snow leopard and its prey base habitat. • To provide forage for live stock reducing competition with wild ungulates. • To involve the whole community in the conservation activity.


© Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan


By Khurshid Ali Shah, Research officer, Snow Leopard Foundation-Pakistan, Chitral


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