ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Climate Change, Mushahid Ullah Khan, has said that receding glaciers in Pakistan’s north post is a severe threat to the snow leopards.

Citing another major reason for their declining population is that they are actively hunted for the illegal trade of their high-priced body parts, which some cultures believe have great medicinal value. He was talking to media at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto International Airport Islamabad on Monday before leaving for Bishkek, capital of the Kyrgyzstan, where he will attend first two-day meeting of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) programme’s steering committee. The meeting will begin on March 19 and will be attended by ministers of 12 countries including Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Russia. The minister said, “Glacial area in Pakistan’s north is spread over 16933 square kilometres, which provides remarkable habitat for the endangered snow leopards but these habitats are vanishing due to rapidly melting glaciers as average temperatures in the northern pars soar.”

The GSLEP steering committee is a high-level body tasked with guiding the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Plan’s implementation.

Mushahid told media that only about 4,000 - 6,500 snow leopards are alive today but the number is falling fast as hunting and climate change are among major threats they face.

“Snow leopards are in trouble - and only humans can help by joining governments’ efforts aimed at controlling their illegal hunting and poaching at all levels,” the minister said.

He hoped that joint efforts across countries will help protect snow leopards from extinction and yield a range of positive results, such as preserving biodiversity.

He also added that a big part of the GSLEP strategy will focus on educating rural mountain and herder communities about the need to protect snow leopards, engaging them in conservation efforts, and helping them have sustainable livelihoods, to prevent an overlap in food sources. He, however, pledge to work with governments part of GSLEP programme to combat poaching and illegal trade networks.