By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) wildlife department may have averted an exercise in futility. Although the parties involved may beg to differ.
Lolly, a female snow leopard who has been in captivity in G-B for the past four years, was recently courted by another leopard from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), officials said on Sunday.
The proposal, however, was turned down by the authorities in G-B noting that the suitor was only a ‘common’ leopard, doubting that the match would produce desirable cubs.
“The K-P wildlife department wanted us to shift Lolly to the province and breed it with a male wildcat being held in captivity there,” said a G-B wildlife department official on the condition of anonymity.
“We had our doubts as to what kind of leopard [whose proposal had been sent] they had,” the source said, adding, “to breed a snow leopard with a common leopard would be unwise.”
The G-B wildlife department then sought information about the K-P cat’s sub-species from their counterparts, but the response received was unsatisfactory.
However, G-B’s refusal the first time around did not deter the determined K-P government who hoped that by approaching the region via the minister of climate change would add weight to their proposal for Lolly. But the move failed as well.
Raised with love and care
Lolly had been taken into captivity in December 2012, when it was just six-months old.
She was abandoned by her mother after getting injured by the riverside in the Khunjerab National Park, Hunza.
A field team of the wildlife department had spotted the abandoned cub and sent it for veterinary care, following which the cub was moved to a rehabilitation centre.
Thereafter, Lolly had to live in a small cage in the Dhee area of the national park where she remained for the next three years before being shifted to a centre in Naltar valley.
Her new home is akin to a mansion, spread over four kanals and has an atmosphere more reminiscent of her natural range in the wild.
Find her own mate
“We received a proposal from the K-P government last year but nothing materialised,” said G-B Wildlife and Forests Secretary Sajjad Haider.
“The survival and well-being of the wildcat is of utmost importance to us,” he added.
With only a few hundred snow leopards left in Pakistan, they are somewhat treated like royalty. This is why, Haider said, they were keen on finding a good match for Lolly and learning whether the leopard K-P had was of the same species or not. But time may be running out for her.
As Lolly turns five, she has been a mature leopard for a couple of years now and has completed around a third of her estimated life. Hence, the wildlife authorities are preparing to release her into the wild.
Haider said that the wildlife authority is hopeful that Lolly will soon regain her wild instincts now that she has had the freedom to roam in the centre.