Federal Minister for Climate Change and Senator, Mushahid Ullah Khan said here on Thursday that Pakistan is committed to joining global efforts and playing its part for protection and conservation of the endangered snow leopard, whose population has declined rapidly in the country because varied reasons including illegal hunting.

He expressed these views while delivering his speech at the inaugural ceremony of the first high-level two-day meeting of steering committee of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) programme. Chaired by the First Vice Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, Tayirbek Sarpashev, the meeting kicked off on Thursday.

Mushahid Ullah Khan told the participants from 12 countries at the meeting including India, Afghanistan, Bhuta, Russia and China that only about 4,000 – 6,500 snow leopards are alive today but the number is falling fast Poaching, hunting and climate change are among major threats they face, which are found only in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

In Pakistan, the population of snow leopard is between 100-200, he said. “Snow leopards are in trouble – and only humans can help by joining efforts of the respective governments aimed at controlling their illegal hunting and poaching at all levels,” the minister urged.

He hoped that joint efforts across countries to be pledged at the GSEP meeting in Bishkek would help protect snow leopards from extinction and yield a range of positive results, such as preserving biodiversity. Mushahid Ullah Khan also added that a big part of the GSLEP strategy would be focused on educating rural mountain and herder communities about the need to protect snow leopards, engaging them in conservation efforts, and helping them have sustainable livelihoods, to prevent an overlap in food sources. Mushahid Ullah Khan also reiterated loud and clear Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif’s commitment for protection and conservation of snow leopard in this regard. “Prime Minister desires not only to save the snow leopard but also the poor people that live in the mountain landscape in Pakistan’s north, which is habitat of the majestic animal,” he stated.

The minister also highlighted the strong determination of the Government of Pakistan to curb wildlife smuggling in particular Turtles. The inaugural ceremony of the GSLEP programme’s multi-national steering committee meeting was also attended by Speaker of National Assembly of Bhutan Mr. LyonpoJigme Zangpo.