Pakistan is home to a number of endangered species, including the woolly flying squirrel, markhor, blue whale, Pakistan sand cat, the ibex wild goat, and several species of birds, whales and turtles. Certain mammals which could be found in abundance at one time have now become the rarest mammals in the world, such as the snow leopard, the Marco Polo sheep and the Indus river dolphin. In response to the decrease in Pakistan’s wildlife population, the government plans on increasing the number of national parks. However, for many of the endangered species of Pakistan, it will be too little, too late.
Indus River Dolphin
The Indus River dolphin is endemic to the lower Indus basin rivers in Pakistan. They are 5 to 8 ft. in length. Their habitat once ranged from the Indus delta upstream to the Himalayan foothills. However, the construction of dams and barrages has severely limited the dolphins’ movement and habitat, as has increasing withdrawal of water for agricultural and industrial use. The plight of the once plentiful Indus River dolphin has become emblematic of wildlife's struggle for survival in Pakistan.
Indus River Dolphin Conservation Efforts
Approximately 1,100 of these animals remain in Pakistan. The government of Sindh established a dolphin reserve in 1974, but this has done little to encourage repopulation. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has devoted some of their resources to help protect this endangered species. According to the WWF, the survival of this species depends upon sustainable conservation measures, but with an expanding population putting increased pressure on water resources, the future of the Indus River dolphin remains very grave.
The short limbs of these medium-sized cats make them excellent rock climbers and cliff scalers, and their thick coat of fur allows them to live in high altitudes. In fact, their coat is so beautiful that a fur coat made of snow leopard could once fetch as much as $50,000 in the United States.
Their habitat is mostly high, rocky terrain, including the Hindu Kush and Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan. These northern areas of Pakistan provide over 80 percent of the country’s available habitat for snow leopards.
Snow Leopard Conservation Efforts
Snow leopards are under threat from a decreased habitat, diminished prey population, poachers who use the animals in traditional Chinese medicine and trophy hunters.
There are several on-going conservation programs. However, these conservation efforts are often at odds with local villagers whose livestock sometimes become food for snow leopards. The Snow Leopard Enterprise Program run by Snow Leopard Trust encourages snow leopard conservation and discourages retaliation against snow leopards for livestock kills by increasing villagers’ incomes through handicraft production.
The Baluchistan bear is a type of Asiatic bear. It is also referred to as the “moon bear” due to a crescent-shaped mark on its chest. These solitary bears live in forest habitats and can weigh over 300 pounds. The Baluchistan bear is found only in the province of Baluchistan in southwest Pakistan and in southeastern Iran. These bears now face extinction due to deforestation and loss of habitat, and those that survive are threatened by hunting due to demand for the bears’ parts by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.