Leopard cub dies in Muzaffarabad hours after being rescued

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An ailing leopard cub which was being treated by veterinary doctors in Muzaffarabad died on Thursday hardly 15 hours after it was rescued by wildlife guards from a village in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), an official said.

The one-year-old cub belonging to the Panthera Pardus species, descended on Ghaziabad village from nearby forests at about 5 pm local time on Wednesday.

AJK Wildlife and Fisheries Department Director Naeem Iftikhar Dar said that the cub was ill when it suddenly appeared in a small commercial area, creating panic among the people.

The director said that “The cub took refuge in a vacant shop whose shutter was immediately pulled down by the people, trapping the leopard inside.” He added that “A large number of people holding sticks gathered outside the shop but were stopped from harming the cub, by senior officials from the local administration who had immediately rushed to the scene.”

According to the AJK Wildlife Act leopards, cannot be killed, captured or kept in possession. However, the law at the same time allows shooting of the carnivore in an act of self-defence or for protecting livestock outside the forest boundaries.

Dar further said that a team of skilled persons led my AJK Wildlife and Fisheries Department Assistant Director Sakhi Zaman was immediately sent to the scene to safely transport the animal for medical treatment. The cub was taken to the wildlife office in Muzaffarabad where veterinary doctors provided treatment to the cub; however it could not survive and died in the evening, he added.

“The postmortem of the cub would be conducted to determine the exact cause of its death,” said Dar.

The Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies Panthera Pardus as “nearly threatened” species.

In Pakistan, this species is found in the mountains of Kashmir, adjoining Murree and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Although according to IUCN Red List their population is on the decline, wildlife officials in AJK claim that their numbers have increased in AJK over the past decade.

AJK Wildlife and Fisheries Department Director attributed this increase to certain conservation initiatives by the concerned government departments as well as awareness in the communities. This increase has led to the shrinkage of suitable habitat for these animals which is why some animals occasionally descend on human settlements.

Dar admitted that his department was ill-equipped to handle such situations effectively. “Lack of rehabilitation centres, trained staff, and vets specialising in the treatment of wildlife species have been hampering conservation efforts,” said the director.

Five months ago, a similar situation had arisen in a village of Jhelum Valley when a leopard entered the livestock corral of a villager. Due to lack of proper facilities at the AJK wildlife department, the Khyber Paktunkhwa wildlife department was called in to handle the situation. The animal was later released back into the wild.