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Villagers save endangered snow leopard

snow leopard

Campaign to save the rare cats may be working

May 13, 1998
Web posted at: 11:43 p.m. EDT (0343 GMT)

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

JAMALABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Contacts between the endangered snow leopard and humans in the Himalayas are often deadly -- for the cat. But that might be changing in Pakistan, where conservationists have been working to educate the villagers who see the cat as a predator.

Farmers in one Pakistani village recently did something unusual when they encountered a rare leopard attacking their goats.

Villager Ulfat Karim tells what happened
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"We ran quickly up the hill, and the leopard was attacking a big goat," villager Ulfat Karim explained. "I had a stick, which I used to separate the leopard from the goats."

Instead of killing it, the villagers caged the leopard and fed it, and called the Pakistani World Wildlife Fund for help. Conservationists say that was a first.

Conservationists thrilled

Darla Hillard of the International Snow Leopard Trust was thrilled "that this villager watching his livelihood disappear down the mouth of this snow leopard had the presence to think about not killing it."

Wildlife experts say the response shows that an intensive educational campaign to save the cat may be working.

An estimated 4,000 to 7,000 snow leopards remain in 12 countries across central Asia. But the people who live in the mountains and tend goats and sheep usually see the leopard as endangering their own modest livelihood.

"People come to realize over time that the snow leopard is worth more alive for ecotourist and for ecosystem preservation," Hillard said.

"We could have hit it with something and killed it," Karim said. "But we decided to let it go. There are very few in the area."

Four days after it was caged, the cat was released back to the wild, with a parting pat by one of her captors.

Still, the treatment of the captured cat while in captivity by the villagers left something to be desired.

"People have been poking at it," said Rodney Jackson of the Snow Leopard Trust "They definitely have a perspective on the cat we'd like to change."


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