Community-Based Snow Leopard Conservation through Improved Animal Husbandry in Chitral, Pakistan

Javed Khan

The project aims to understand and realise the needs of the local community and endangered wildlife leading to a situation where both wildlife and local people live in harmony with each other

Animal husbandry is the main source of livelihood for herding communities in alpine and sub alpine pastures of Northern Pakistan. Over the time, high stocking rate on these pastures has led to a situation where livestock in most cases has competed wild ungulates, resulting Snow Leopard and other predators to turn to domestic livestock for their food that subsequently has created conflict between pastoralists and endangered Snow Leopard. Predator/herder conflict is a growing problem in Pakistan. Studies show that herders are losing 10% of their herds to preventable diseases and 1% to predators. Yet because of difficulty of access to vaccinations, herders spend much more effort killing predators than preventing diseases Good Animal Husbandry Program is one of the initiatives taken by Snow Leopard Project after consultation with wildlife experts, conservationists, local communities and pastoralists, to minimize the conflict between herders and Snow Leopard by enhancing the income of pastoralists that would go a long way in winning their goodwill and cooperation ultimately leading to better conservation of Snow Leopard and the allied biodiversity.

Snow Leopard Project initiated livestock vaccination program in the areas to reduce mortality in livestock with a long term objective to motivate herders to keep a few but good producing animals than having a large herd of low producing animals. The project provides vaccines and training to improve the productivity of livestock herds. As part of the program, herders abide by conservation agreements that prohibit the killing of snow leopards and their prey species, as well as other conservation measures like freezing herd size at current levels.

The full cost of vaccines is covered by the program in years one and two, and 50% in year 3. After that, the herders pay the full cost. The average community has 1,500 animals, and vaccine costs are about £.30 an animal. As herd populations increase, excess animals are sold off to maintain the original herd size and raise funds for the herders and vaccine costs. If any herder breaks the agreement they are out of the program for one. Training to herders in fodder preservation is provided to enable the herding communities to preserve fodder with a purpose to delay their movement to pastures to provide more undisturbed time for grasses to grow, adding toward health of the pasture.

Fodder preservation is a tool to motivate herders towards stall feeding leading towards minimizing number of livestock on selected pastures, in Chitral, providing more grazing space to wild ungulates to grow resulting in more natural prey for Snow Leopard.

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