Wounded leopard rescued from Muzaffarabad dies in Islamabad

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Female animal injured with shotgun, feared to be killed by poachers who wanted her cubs

Zubair Qureshi

A wounded female leopard rescued from the Neelum Valley on Saturday and shifted to Islamabad for an operation, passed away Sunday. According to officials, she had multiple wounds caused by a shotgun that had paralysed her hind legs. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department had rescued and moved the female animal to Islamabad.

According to Chairperson Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) Rina S Khan there is every probability she was killed by poachers who were after her cubs. “The injured leopard story is getting sadder. The vets say she had had cubs at least once and now locals reporting they had seen a mother with cubs in the area. She must have been protecting them,” said Khan calling for an end to illegal wildlife trade.

Rina S Khan told that immediately after her arrival, two vets Dr Basit, Dr Ovais performed operation while Director of the international organization for animals welfare Four Paws Dr Amir Khalil was also consulted via phone but the animal was badly wounded and died in her prime (4-5 years old).

Hunter in AJK used 12 Guage shotgun & LG shot shell to hunt leopard for her skin/trophy (cubs). Pellets lodged in spine & neck area. She had beautiful eyes and belonged to the forests of AJK.

Not so common leopards (critically endangered in Pakistan) must be protected, said the IWMB in its tweet. Earlier, Saturday, the people of the valley found the distressed leopard near the river. Its hind legs were paralysed because of which it couldn’t move.

Immediately after rescuing the animal, the wildlife department moved it to a hospital in Islamabad, but on Sunday, during an operation, the leopard passed away. Sakhawat Ali, manager of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, told Pakistan Observer that the leopard was a beautiful female animal.

“She was shot either by locals or hunters Friday night. Her x-Ray revealed 5-6 pellets from rifle inside her.” The pellets lodged into the spine and neck of the animal. Ali said that the board did its best and exercised all its efforts to save the leopard but couldn’t. He also blamed the lack of vets in the country for it. “Pakistan doesn’t have a single neurosurgeon for wild animals.”

The medical reports have been sent to the AJK. The wildlife department is trying to trace the perpetrators and arrest them, he added. According to a survey, the population of leopards in Pakistan ranges from 150 to 200. The animals are predominantly spread in Kashmir. They have been declared “near threatened” by the International Union of Conservation. Reports reveal more than 60 common leopards have been killed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir in the last seven years despite a ban.

Earlier the wildlife guards on Saturday evacuated the seriously injured common leopard from along the rocky bank of River Neelum and shifted it to a rehabilitation centre for wild animals in the federal capital for treatment, an official said. According to the Wildlife and Fisheries Department of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) the leopard was believed to have fallen from the Neelum valley road onto the riverbank overnight near Nosadda village, some 35km northeast of here. Some villagers spotted the animal on Saturday morning, half submerged in the icy water and tried to rescue it, but in vain. Sensing that the animal was hungry, the villagers also fed it with chickens.

Later, the wildlife team also reached the area to rescue the leopard. The team managed to evacuate the wild animal to the roadside without using a dart gun.

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