A Snow Leopard Encounter! Karakoram Highway

We arrived in Northern Pakistan in search of the snow leopards. While traveling on the Karakoram Highway, we observed the ibex and the vultures.

In Khunjerab National Park, there are many footprints on the roads and in the snowy fields of the river. On the Karakoram Highway, I also found traces of snow leopards after they slept in certain places and on  worn plastic pet bottles that were chewed up by the snow leopard kittens that had played with them as toys. Snow leopards seem to regularly come onto the Karakoram Highway, which makes for easier paths to travel at night and in the early morning hours when there are no cars around.

 

A suspension bridge covered with snow leopard footprints! Snow leopards can cross the rivers in narrow or frozen areas, but of course if there is a bridge, they will not hesitate to use it.

Around noon, as we were traveling along the Karakoram Highway, the guide suddenly shouted “Leopard!” And promptly stopped the car and got out. Staring out at the landscape saying “Bismillah, Bismillah (In the name of God),” and right there, was a snow leopard.

 

It was sitting on a rock just off the road, but as soon as it saw us, started walking away.
The guide is delighted with “Shaubashi, Shaubashi (Wakhi language meaning ‘Very good’ or ‘Well done’.) The pressure on the guide of trying to see a snow leopard, was released.

 

Even though we saw it, the snow leopard was so fast and it was difficult to catch a photo of it as it walked away. At 3,300 meters above sea level, we were so excited and became short of breath. As we took the photos, our hands were shaking, not sure if the photos would come out.

 

A Snow leopard, actually walking, in the snow. So often, Snow leopards are observed amongst rocky backdrops, so it was nice to finally be able to observe this snow leopard with the white snow, which it was named after.

 

It climbed higher and higher, getting smaller and smaller.

 

It continued moving further away. There were times when it overlapped and camouflaged with the tufts of grass, making it hard to find in the viewfinder.

 

He showed me his face for just a few brief moments. This is the last photo. It started walking into the rocky area and soon disappeared.

 

The group as we watched this snow leopard until the very end.

 

We returned to Sost at 2:30 pm for a late lunch. This day was a celebration for the guides (but no alcohol!). A buffet of different kinds of yak meat. All enjoyed a fusion of yak meat recipes, such as yak mantu (Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which borders Sost, Central Asian cuisine) and yak nihari (a dish of the Indian subcontinent that is stewed with beef parts and the bone marrow).

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Dec 2020, Khunjerab National Park, KVO Area, Gojar, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks: Tomo AKIYAMA, Hussain ALI and Abul KHAN

Category : - Snow Leopard > - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Gojar > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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(Video)An Ibex Appeared on the Karakoram Highway!

After mid-December, Himalayan Ibex sometimes descend to the villages near Khunjerab National Park and the mountains close by. As the mountains become covered with snow in the winter, the herds of females move down to the lower altitudes. This is when ibex will start their breeding season, attracting the males to the herds.

This male ibex with his huge horns just suddenly appeared on the side of Karakoram Highway. Perhaps he was in hot pursuit of a female, and just forgot about his own safety, but he passed immediately next to us.

 

Himalayan Ibex on the Karakoram Highway

 

 

Text :Mariko SAWADA     Video : Yoko KADONAGA

Observation : Dec 2020, on the Karakoram Highway, Khunjerab National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : = Video Clip Gilgit-Baltistan > - the Karakoram Highway > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Ibex > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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Snow Leopard returns to the mountain

In late February 2017, a Snow Leopard which attacked livestock in the village of Misgar in Northern Pakistan was captured. She entered the barn and killed goats and sheep. However, she could not get out of the barn.
The villagers understood that the Snow Leopard must be protected at all cost, but they wanted to ask the administration for compensation of their killed livestock. So, it was the third day after being captured, when she was finally released to the mountain.

This snow leopard was a female snow leopard who was being observed with two cubs near the village of Misgar. They did not release at Misgar but they transported to the Khunjerab National Park where she was released.

The story that snow leopard was captured in Misgar became news immediately, and I was trying to go there. Unfortunately, I was informed that a foreigner needs a permit to go there and I had no time for that. So, I gave up and stayed at Deh check post of Khunjerab National Park, where this snow leopard arrived.

To see the moment when this Snow Leopard is released, TV crew and government officials gathered and moved in a row.
It was decided to release her on the slope of the mountain, just after the Deh check post.

Even the cage was opened, snow leopard did not come out immediately. As it didn’t come out, the locals who were around enchanted, “Lolly, Lolly, come!”.
“Lolly” is the Snow Leopard kept at Sost check post, until autumn of 2016.
Now she has been shifted to Naltar valley. But when National Park staff see a female Snow Leopard, they cannot stop calling it “Lolly.”

As she was thirsty, so she immediately started to eat the snow.

She looked forward towards the people, after eating the snow.

And cautiously observed the environment around her.

She came out slowly from the cage. At this moment, applause arose from the local people standing there.

Finally, now she is freely walking into the wild.

After three days of restraint, her fur was disordered, and the blood of the livestock was still spread on her body.

She stopped to eat the snow.

The Snow Leopard went into the bush but still stared at us.

After a while, it started climbing the mountain again and sat down again.
Although this is a released Snow Leopard, it was first time to see a wild Snow Leopard in Pakistan for me.

We left the place hoping that this snow leopard could safely return to the two cubs in Misgar.
The next day, the staff went to see where the snow leopard was last sighted, but it was not there no more.

Fortunately, three days after the release, there was a message from the National Park staff that this snow leopard was witnessed in Misgar with two cubs.

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Feb 2017, Khunjerab National Park, Gilgit -Baltistan
Special Thanks : Mr. Sultan Gohar -KNP(Khunjerab National Park), Mr. Farman Razah – KVO ( Khunjerab Villager Organization), Wildlife Department of Pakistan

Category : - Snow Leopard > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan > ◇ Conservation of Wildlife, Nature
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Lolly the Snow Leopard -1

This article is about the Snow Leopard named “Lolly”, who was kept at the entrance of Khunjerab National Park in 2015. (All photos of snow leopards in this article are taken while in captivity. Lolly is kept in the Naltar Valley as of May 2019.)

Snow Leopards follow and prey on wild animals such as Ibex in high mountains in northern Pakistan. In winter, descend down to the Karakoram Highway.

About 13 years ago, there was a Snow Leopard cub named “Leo” at the National Park office. Tourists who crossed the border to China used to see Leo and could take a photo with him. But it went to the zoo in the United States.

About seven years ago, villagers found a Snow Leopard cub drowned in the frozen river and saved it. A female Snow Leopard cub, who is estimated to be about six months old, was named “Lolly” and was kept in check post of KVO and Khunjerab National Park near Sost. When we visited, Lolly was in her third year in the cage.

Mr. Farman Razah who saved Lolly gets close to Lolly …. Lolly looks happy and makes sounds like cats “gorogoro” …

Lolly playing with national park staff. She gets to eat 3 kg of meat every day. Mainly of sheep, goats, and yaks.

How long will Lolly stay in this cage? Why it cannot be returned back to the wild?

At that time, the staff of this check post was telling us some ideal plan for Lolly that, when Leo comes back from the United States both Lolly and Leo will be shifted to Naltar Valley and will try for breeding.

Unfortunately, this is Pakistan, it does not go as planned. Lolly has been moved to the Naltar Valley, but Leo did not come back from US.

Finally, this is a photo of Leo when he was small. Photo with Mr. Sultan Gohar in Khunjerab National Park. (Photo courtesy of Khunjerab National Park)

It’s a pity that it’s not wild. Still, it’s something for a big cat’s lover !

Photo & Text: Mariko SAWADA

Photo of Leo & Sultan Gohar: Credits to Mr. Sultan Gohar – KNP (Khunjerab National Park)
Observation: **Captive condition in cage** Oct 2015, Khunjerab National Park, Pakistan
Reference: Mr.Sultan Gohar – KNP,  Mr. Farman Razah – KVO

Category : - Snow Leopard > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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Himalayan Ibex – Khunjerab National Park

In late December, when whole of the northern region of Pakistan was enveloped with snow, we went to Khunjerab National Park – located in the border between Pakistan and China.
Khunjerab National Park is home to many unique species of wildlife including the snow leopard, blue sheep, Himalayan Ibex and many more. Himalayan Ibex lives in the Khunjerab National Park throughout the year. However, winter is the perfect time to witness them when they solely descend for the purposes of mating and grazing.

Ibex in northern Pakistan is a subspecies called Himalayan Ibex or Siberian Ibex, <Capra sibirica>. It seems that they are further classified by the habitat among them.

According to the National Park staff, Ibex in this area is said to gather in low places from mid-December to late January. The male was deliberately chasing the female!

Cute, young Ibex at an altitude of 4,500m, close to Khunjerab Top.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : end of Dec 2018, Khunjerab National Park

Special Thanks : Mr. Sultan Gohar – Khunjerab National Park

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Ibex > - Khunjerab National Park > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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