PESHAWAR - For Khizer Hayat, a young resident of Galliyat, the most ostracised thing to him on earth is common leopard because the predator mauled his minor brother a couple of years ago causing instant death of the child.
“Whenever I get a chance of watching a leopard in my locality, I will open firing to kill the animal,” he vowed while narrating the tale about killing of his younger brother, Azhar Hayat, an eight year boy who was attacked and killed by a leopard in 2015 at Nagri Bala Union Council of Makol village in Nathiagali.
My father, Irshad, who drives a cab in Karachi, was also so much shocked and grieved over the incident that he used to roam in forests for three consecutive months with gun in his hand to search and kill the leopard in retaliation over killing of his cute son, Khizer told APP.
Same are the sentiments of the bereaved relatives of 10 year old Sohail son of Yousaf and a 14 year old girl Tahira who both were mauled by a same leopard in Baren Gali and Pattan Kalan areas of Abbottabad district in 2011.
The leopard which had become a man eater was later trapped and shifted to a Wildlife Park in Malakand district.
“The reaction of victim’s relatives is natural because they have lost family members due to attack by big cat,” comments Sajid Hussain, Field Assistant Common Leopard WWF-Pakistan.
It is very difficult for officials of Wildlife Department KP and WWF to face the victims after every incident of leopard attack, Sajid told APP during a field visit to Nathiagali.
“Talking about conservation of big cats with locals at a time when they are highly charged over attack by predators on humans and livestock is almost impossible,” he added.
The only thing which can work as a solace for the victims relatives and help in assuaging the locals is proper compensation in shape of financial assistance or provision of jobs, but unfortunately this does not exist due to lack of policy, opined Sajid who is engaged in common leopard conservation at Galliyat for the last two decades and is the first person who radio collared a big cat for research purpose.
“How can we urge or convince people to cooperate with us for conservation of highly endangered wild specie of Pakistan without giving them any relief at time of their loss,” Sajid questions.
“In most of the cases of human loss due to leopard attack, government officials and public representatives arrive at our villages and announce financial assistance besides provision of jobs to members of bereaved families, but with the passage of time these announcements prove to be mere hollow slogans, causing sever resentment among people,” laments Sardar Razaqat, uncle of late Azhar Hayat.
The Wildlife Department is providing a meager amount of Rs 5000 as compensation in case of livestock depredation, but the process is so cumbersome that people ignore applying to avoid visits and humiliations, Razaqat complained.
He said that the department is not paying any compensation over loss of cow or ox, only loss of goat is compensated with a limited amount.
Razaqat also disclosed that Hamza Shehbaz, a leader of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) Nawaz and son of former Chief Minister Punjab, Shebaz Sharif is paying Rs 300,000 as compensation to family of every leopard attack victims from his own pocket.
“Mutual co-existence among human and carnivore (common leopard) in Western Himalayan Eco-region comprising of areas including Ayubia National Park, Galliyat and Murree Forest frequently witness conflicts resulting in killing of both the human and leopards as well,” reads a research paper prepared by Dr. Uzma Khan of WWF-Pakistan during her Ph.D research on common leopard in Western Himalayan Eco-region.
The 19 pages research paper, titled as Predator, prey and humans in a mountainous area: loss of biological diversity leads to trouble, discloses that in the first 15 years of this century about two attacks to human per year were recorded, half of which were lethal.
Whereas, 40 leopards were killed by humans between 1998 to 2015, plus eight which ended up in captivity in Abbottabad district alone.
Available data for this period for the whole of Pakistan provided an alarming number of 105 leopards killed or ended up in captivity i.e six leopards per year, adds the study.
The study made an observation that in areas where wild prey are scarce or unavailable and forest is decreasing,livestock depredation would increase and in turn a potential for conflict with humans will develop, resulting in lethal outcomes for carnivores (because of retaliatory killing), livestock and sometimes humans.
“To increase the long-term survival of leopards and mitigate human-carnivore conflicts, priority should be given to restoration of a diverse natural prey assembly, protection of forest habitats, together with improved livestock management practices and livestock compensation. The latter will require a sustainable financial mechanism,” the study suggested with emphasis on compensation.
“There does not exists any policy for compensation of leopard attack victims,” admits Chief Conservator Wildlife Department KP, Syed Safdar Ali Shah.
Talking to APP, Safdar said a policy was prepared by Wildlife Department suggesting payment of compensation to leopard attack victims in accordance with the amount
being provided in the Relief Act to the victims of natural calamities like floods, earthquake and accidents etc.
The documents, he continued, is still in the pipeline and needs approval of the officials concerned.
Safdar also stressed for constitution of Wildlife and Biodiversity Board as enshrined in KP Wildlife Act of 2015 under which a fund could be created for compensation of victims.
“WWF-Pakistan had established a `Conservation Fund’ by obtaining token collection contract of Pipeline Track passage in Galliyat from Wildlife Department,” disclosed Muhammad Waseem, Coordinator Conservation WWF-Pakistan.
The passage constructed in colonial era starts from Donga Gali and ends in Ayubia through a hilly track, he added.
Under the fund, WWF started provision of ompensation of Rs.5000 as a token money to reduce the burden of loss of locals over killing of livestock, Waseem told APP.
The same conservation fund was later handed over to Wildlife Department under which the same compensation is being paid, he added.
Waseem opined that on time compensation is very necessary because people dwelling in Galliyat are very poor and even don’t afford to pay for treatment of injuries due to leopard attack.
In a recent leopard attack on two persons in the month of August 2018 at Kuldana hills area near Murree, the victims were not even able to buy anti-rabies injections as prescribed by doctor in hospital, he told APP.
Resentment among public over losses due to leopard attack are resulting in killing of the feline by poisoning of hunted goat, Waseem explains.
In the prevailing scenario implementation of a sound financial compensation scheme is necessary to limit economic impact of livestock depredation and protect common leopard by reducing human-carnivore conflict in the region, Waseem suggested.
While welcoming announcement by newly appointed Advisor on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam that a Wildlife Policy is on the anvil, Waseem expressed the hope that the new policy will give due coverage to payment of compensation in result of attack by predators in the area.