Cats are not just elusive but remain the hardest creatures to trace in the wilderness. Pakistan’s dense forests in the North and North West are home of some of the rare and endangered species in the world. The wildlife statistics and data available with the regional wildlife departments is not just inadequate but come with heavy lacunae of its own.
The Eurasian Lynx is the biggest among the three species of the cat namely the Canadian Lynx, Iberian Lynx and the Eurasian Lynx. Adult males weigh on an average 21 kgs and have relatively long legs and large feet which provide a “snow-shoe” effect allowing for more efficient travel through deep snow.
In Pakistan, Lynx has been reported from Chitral District in KPK and Gilgit Balitistan. However, all the reports were based on anecdotal information or expert judgement until the experts from Snow Leopard Conservation Organisation stumbled with rare first hand snapshot of the Himalayan Lynx with the Motion Sensor cameras installed to monitor the Snow Leopards.
A recent study conducted in the Chitral district in KPK, conservationists have now confirmed the existence of the Himalayan Lynx, cat specie which is rated as endangered at the IUCN, listed Near Threatened (NT 3.1). This specie of Lynx is also called as the Eurasian Lynx and its habitat ranges from the Central Asia the northern slopes of Himalayas, the Dhaulagiri region of Nepal, southern Chinese regions of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan and remote and barren regions of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Northern Pakistan.
Near Threatened (NT 3.1). This specie of Lynx is also called as the Eurasian Lynx and its habitat ranges from the Central Asia the northern slopes of Himalayas, the Dhaulagiri region of Nepal, southern Chinese regions of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan and remote and barren regions of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Northern Pakistan.
Followed by the sightings, a thorough research over the specie’s occurrence in Pakistan is still underway and initial study reveals that the local populace is well aware of the existence of this cat in their respective areas.
Out of 248 informants, some 164 reported the occurrence of the Himalayan Lynx in different parts of the Chitral District in a span of last eight years. Highest Lynx occurrence has been reported in Mastuj and the lowest in Torkhow. Majority of the Lynx sightings were reported either at dawn or dusk indicating the nocturnal behavior of the animal. Most of the times, the animal has been spotted in shrub lands near winter pastures followed by broken rocks and meadows along the pony treks of summer pastures.
Since Livestock rearing is the major source of income of the highland communities, it makes the prime cause of Human-wildlife conflict in the Alpine zones of the world. Looming threats to the Lynx population are both human induced and economically fueled: induced retaliatory killings such as shooting, trapping and poisoning, poaching for pelts and bones, loss of natural prey-base, loss of habitat due to overgrazing, food competition, changing climate, human population growth and lack of awareness.
The specie requires a thorough Base-line survey to ascertain the total number of the animals, their habitat, concentration and their feeding patterns before a comprehensive conversation plan can be designed and rolled out for the endangered Himalayan Lynx in Pakistan.
To reduce the human-predator conflict and to promote a sense of resource stewardship in the communities, community based conservation projects need to be initiated in one of the high depredation zones. Improving natural prey-base will help reduce predation on Livestock, thus driving down conflicts with local communities.