A man, identified as Muhammad Saleem, was arrested for illegally hunting a snow leopard in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Hopar Valley on Thursday, according to the Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife and Parks Department.

The investigation was initiated by forest conservator Khadim Abbas who discovered the suspect’s whereabouts from their social media and forwarded the details to the district office of the Hunza-Nagar Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries Department.

Saleem was then arrested by the police during a raid. During interrogation, he revealed the names of other men who had accompanied him on the hunt. Muhammad Malik, Ibrahim, Muhammad Amin and Alim Jan were then also arrested.

The poachers were presented before a wildlife magistrate and convicted. Two suspects were punished with two years in jail and a Rs5 million fine under the Gilgit-Baltistan Wildlife Act, 1975. A delay in paying the fine will lead to six more months in prison.

Two other men were sentenced to a year in prison. According to reports, there are only 300 snow leopards believed to be left in the wild in Pakistan.

The wildlife department has lauded the action taken by the police and other departments and has stressed the importance of keeping animals such as snow leopards safe. It stated that they were an “asset” for the region and their well-being was very important.

Wildlife activists in the region have been working to improve the ecosystem for the survival and breeding of these animals.