Calls to protect Pakistan’s critically endangered wildlife have increased after a leopard died from injuries sustained when it was shot on the banks of a river in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
The injured female leopard was found by locals on Sunday and transported to Islamabad for treatment, but did not survive. An X-ray revealed that it had been hit by six pellets from a 12-bore shotgun.
Local police said a suspect had been arrested and a case registered against him, and that they had recovered a shotgun. The suspect has been released on bail.
Rina Saeed Khan, the chair of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), said one bullet had lodged in the middle of the leopard’s vertebral column, paralysing it.
“Our vets have informed us that the leopard was a mother and the cubs should be around where the leopard was shot,” Khan said. “We have seen people shooting leopards in AJK [Azad Jammu and Kashmir region] for quite some time. Across the country wildlife is diminishing. We have to save our wildlife.”
The country’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif tweeted that he was saddened by the “brutal killing” and called on the wildlife department to punish those responsible.
In 2020, the prime minister, Imran Khan, ordered the establishment of 12 national parks and announced plans to preserve and protect wildlife and plantations.
But hunting of endangered animals – including leopards – has persisted. Rina Saeed Khan said people hunted leopards for two reasons: to sell their fur or to protect livestock.
She said the government should make sure people were properly compensated for dead livestock in order to deter them from shooting big cats.
Villagers are increasingly coming into contact with leopards due to deforestation to make way for homes where once there were jungles, she added.
Imran Khan championed the protection of wildlife on the campaign trail, and in opposition criticised the government for allowing royals from the Middle East to hunt endangered Houbara bustards. In 2016, he tweeted:“Never thought I would see the day when hunting of the endangered Houbara Bustard would become a ‘pillar of our foreign policy’.”
In January 2021, however, he issued special permits for hunting bustards to visitors from the Middle East, drawing harsh criticism from conservationists and activists.