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2016 Whitley Award
Muhammad Ali Nawaz Pakistan Terrestrial
A landscape-level approach to conserve the snow leopards

The Whitley Award donated by The Shears Foundation in memory of Trevor Shears


The creation of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (GSLEP) in 2013 brought together governments from all 12 snow leopard range countries to agree a comprehensive conservation strategy to ensure the long-term survival of these big cats across their range. This landmark agreement reflects the need for transboundary cooperation and seeks to identify and secure 23 important snow leopard landscapes with the help of local communities by 2020.

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Within Pakistan, snow leopards are considered critically endangered. Pakistan’s current protected area system is not adequate to sustain viable populations of snow leopards, and outside protected areas local communities rely heavily on rangelands and forests for survival. Poaching, habitat degradation and subsequent decline of natural prey species are major threats to snow leopards and have led to increased livestock predation. This loss can amount to the equivalent of a month’s salary, and sometimes snow leopards are killed by herders in retaliation.

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Based at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Muhammad Ali Nawaz leads the snow leopard programme in Pakistan, which is a partnership initiative between the Snow Leopard Foundation, Federal Ministry of Climate Change, provincial Wildlife Departments and local communities. Working in the Pamir-Karakoram mountain complex, one of the priority landscapes identified by the GSLEP, Ali is bringing together people, NGOs and government in a unified effort to develop a management plan for this habitat. Ali is testing possible solutions and replicating successful approaches in the region to enable co-existence of communities and carnivores. Livestock insurance and vaccination programmes to reduce losses and increase tolerance are being introduced alongside increasing vital capacity and research efforts to conserve this elusive species.

USE 5 Discussing snow leopard conservation issues with local community in Chitral

Ali’s project will:

  • Establish a multi-stakeholder strategy to ensure survival of snow leopards and their prey in the Pamir-Karakoram landscape covering 25,000km².
  • Train 50 wildlife managers to implement, monitor and enforce sustainable landscape management measures.
  • Engage 6,000 people through improved husbandry, livestock vaccination and insurance programmes.
  • Scale up research into snow leopard abundance and resource use.

Why it matters:

  • This will be Pakistan’s first landscape-level strategy for snow leopard conservation and will be used as a model to guide future conservation planning.
  • The project will be one of the initial steps towards achieving the GSLEP’s 2020 goal.
  • Herding communities lack economic safety nets to protect them against livestock losses, which insurance and vaccination programmes help to buffer against.

Whitley Award funding will make possible large-scale activities that, until now, we have not been able to support.