Kashmir Markhor Mother and Kid just across the river!

In the mountainous and rugged area near Chitral, there are several places where Kashmir Markhor can be observed.

Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan. There are 4 subspecies; Astor Markhor, Kabul Markhor, Kashmir Markhor, and Suleiman Markhor inhabited in Pakistan.
Indeed, Pakistan is surprisingly a country with a plethora of Markhors.

 

In the Tooshi Game Reserve, on the other side of the river along the way to Garam Chashma (hot spring) from Chitral, several groups of Markhor come to drink water from the river in the afternoon.

During this tour we observed a female Markhor and her kid very closely from the river side. But, only female and kid… Where is male?
Males spend most of the year  high on the mountains and they descend to low altitudes for mating in month of  December.

 

Markhor not only comes to drink water, but also to eat the leaves and bushes that grow on the river bank.

Kashmir Markhor climbing a tree!

 

Both mother and kid are standing on hind legs & eating.

 

Yes, you have to eat well before the harsh winters start!

 

During the visit, we did not get information about number of Markhor  in the Tooshi Game Reserve. But at at the Chitral Gol National Park nearby, it is said that the number of Markhor has increased to about 2,500.

In fact, I was able to meet Kashmir Markhor easily both in Tooshi Game Reserve and Chitral Gol National Park. Next time I would like to see “the male Markhor”.

 

Photo: Mariko SAWADA    Text : Mariko SAWADA, Sarosh HADI
Visit : Oct 2019, Tooshi Game Reserve, Chitral , Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : # Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Chitral > - Markhor
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Sindh Ibex – Hingol National Park

Sindh Ibex is a mountain goat family that lives in the rugged dry mountainous areas of southern Pakistan. As the name suggests, Kirthar National Park in Sindh is famous for its natural habitat. However, Sindh Ibex also lives in Hingol National Park, Balochistan.

Surprisingly it was easy to meet Sindh Ibex coming to the water in the dry Hingol National Park. It was at the sacred Hinglaj Mata Hindu Temple (also called Nani Mandir) inside the national park. When I approached the shrine, Sindh Ibex was eating grass in quite a close distance.

 

A male Sindh Ibex. There are two types of Ibex in Pakistan. Himalayan Ibex in the Northern Mountains and Sindh Ibex in the mountains of Sindh and Balochistan. The male horn of Sindh Ibex astoundingly grows 1m long.

 

Gorgeous female Sindh Ibex and its baby.

 

Going forward, suddenly I saw a group of Ibex emerging from just above the cliff. Generally, Sindh Ibex seems to move in relatively large groups.

There were a lot of trophy-sized males (ones with large horns permitted to trophy hunting). In Pakistan, Ibex trophy hunting is taking place. However, it is only prohibited inside the national parks and hunting is operated under the rules and regulations by the community forest. For 2019, 50 Himalayan Ibex and 24 Sindh Ibex in Pakistan are allocated for trophy hunting slots.

Hunting?? In this era?? No doubt, I am against hunting, but Pakistan’s hunting situation is likewise identified with conservation and the endurance of the local villagers. Trophy hunting targets only large horned individuals who have no more ability to reproduce. Subsequently, these profits are given to villagers, so villagers crackdown on illegal hunting. Therefore, it is said that the Ibex population has increased in both the northern and southern regions since this system was established.

 

Energetic young males began battling with their horns.

 

It’s like a fighting practice. A male Ibex show dominance by fighting with a horn over females when they reach maturity.

 

Photo : Mariko SAWADA    Text : Mariko SAWADA & Sarosh HADI
Visit : Feb 2019, Hinglaj Mata/Nani Mandir, Balochistan

Category : # Balochistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Hingol National Park > - Ibex
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Stoat of Deosai Plateau

It is a Stoat, also known as a short-tailed weasel, which I observed at Deosai National Park, in October.
The morning and evening temperatures were below freezing point during this season. The Stoat was completely engulfed in white winter fur; protected from the predators and the harsh cold weather.

A Stoat is widely distributed in northern Eurasia continent and North America. In Pakistan, it is found in the northern mountainous areas.

There was no one where we stayed at Bara Pani campsite. A calm and peaceful place and only cold wind were blowing… Ultimately, a Stoat came quite close to us without any fear! Thus, we had the perfect opportunity to photograph it.

Photo: Mariko  Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Oct 2015, Deosai Plateau, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National park > - Stoat
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Snow Leopard observed in Morkhun Village -2

To begin with, when we were informed that the Snow Leopard hunted Ibex in the Morkhun village and sat on the other side of the river, we were near Gilgit. Thus, we changed the direction and headed towards Morkhun Village.

We had to drive slowly because it was dangerous and slippery on snowy roads, due to which, the chances of seeing the snow leopard decreased. It was a risky decision, as the snow leopard may not be there once we reach.
However, against all odds, we headed to the Morkhun village with a complex mind.

This is the Snow Leopard I saw when I just arrived. It was on the other side of the river and the distance was short. At first, I could not find it as it was camouflaged. But then I were able to see it, once it moved its tail.

It was already past 15 o’clock, and I was worried that the snow leopard would move before it became dark.

According to the villagers who have been observing it since morning, the Snow Leopard was hunting Ibex, eating it, hiding the rest of meat in the bush, entering the river, climbing up the rock, then it was sitting there for a while, and at last, went to sleep…till now. Villagers were showing us video clips of Snow Leopard they took through their mobile phone, while we were waiting for the movement of Snow Leopard.

The snow leopard has begun to move!
Villager screams in Wakhi saying, “Shou-bashi!”, meaning “Very good “/”Well Done”.
At this time, about 30 people from the village of Morkhun and the surrounding villages were witnessing the snow leopard.

Snow Leopard has jumped out. The villagers are delighted to say, “Shau-bashi! Shau-Bashi!”

Wild Snow Leopard is in front of us! I was really waiting for this perfect moment for a long time in Pakistan.

The villagers expected that Snow Leopard might go to the Ibex it hunted, but the Snow Leopard sat down again.

It was already dark, consequently limited chance to photograph the snow leopard. I followed the last figure of the snow leopard until I could not see it and left the place finally.

This is the place where we were observing in Morkhun village (drone shot)

Lastly, thanks a lot to the local people of Morkhun village.

Photo: Mariko Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Jan 2019, Morkhun Village, Gojal, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks to Mr. Sultan Gohar (Khunjerab National Park), Mr. Yousaf Akhtar for Drone shooting.

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Morkhun > - Snow Leopard
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Snow Leopard observed in Morkhun Village -1

This is a Snow Leopard I observed at Morkhun village in the beginning of January. I saw a lot of footprints of Snow Leopard in Khunjerab National Park (KNP), yet I could not witness it live.

At last! Now Snow Leopard is in front of me.

At around 10:30 am, a villager found Ibex blazing down the slopes of the mountain. When looked carefully, it was chased by a snow leopard.
Finally, Snow Leopard hunted Ibex, but the place was just across the river of Morkhun village. It was a distance of about 30m across the river.

At 15:00, I arrived at Morkhun village after receiving a message from Mr. Gohar, KNP.
The Snow Leopard was concealed, sitting inside the tree branch. But it started to move in the evening.

Villagers state that as this Snow Leopard entered the river after hunting of Ibex, so the fur was not fluffy.
The sunlight shining on Morkhun village — encompassed by high peaks of The Karakoram range — was short and faded quickly.
Sadly, now the time was over…

Photo: Mariko   Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Jan 2019, Morkhun, Gojal, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks: Mr. Sultan Gohar – KNP (Khunjerab National Park)

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Morkhun > - Snow Leopard
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Himalayan Brown Bear in Autumn – Deosai National Park

A Himalayan Brown Bear which makes the glorious Deosai plateau a well-known and famous place to traverse and explore for wildlife lovers around the world. In fact, the name itself literally translates to, “The land of the Giants”.

The Himalayan Brown Bear is a subspecies of the brown bear that lives in and around the magnificent Himalayas.
Originally, it inhabited widely in Nepal, Tibet, North India, and North Pakistan. However, due to trophy hunting and specifically for the purposes of fur and medicine, it lost its habitat and the population decreased drastically.
It is said that Himalayan brown bear in Bhutan has already been extinct. Moreover. Only a few hundreds population in Northern India and Northern Pakistan remain in the world.

In October, I went to Deosai Plateau for the observation of Himalayan Brown Bear with Deosai National Park staff. During my visit, a staff member explained to me that the bear may come closer to the roadside, as there are comparatively fewer cars and people during this season.
But still it was far and I had to walk quite a distance to approach the bear….

The sun has fallen.
No doubt, it was difficult to walk quickly, considering the fact that we were over 4,000 meters above sea level.

Finally, I came to the perfect distance where I could photograph the gigantic Himalayan Brown Bear.

View of a Himalayan Brown Bear from the backside!
According to the staff of the national park, he was a young male, and he was seamlessly fat enough before the hibernation period.

Himalayan Brown Bears go into hibernation between November and December.

Photo : Mariko   Text : Mariko & Sarosh
Observation : Oct 2015, Deosai National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Deosai National park > - Himalayan Brown Bear
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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: Mariko  Text: Mariko & Sarosh
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 : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Khunjerab National Park > - Snow Leopard > - Snow Leopard (in Captivity)
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Lolly the Snow Leopard -3

This is about Lolly the Snow Leopard, who has moved to the Naltar Valley.
Continuing from the previous day, I spent at Lolly’s facility from the morning. (The photo of Snow Leopard in this article is in captivity, not in wild)

Firstly, stop the jeep near the ski slope and walk from here. I asked the locals why Lolly was supposed to come to Naltar instead of Khunjerab National Park where she was born.
“I don’t know for sure, but it’s because Naltar has army facilities and army officials are watching it.”, he said. Certainly, at the fence of Lolly, there are army related people besides the tourists.

When I arrived at the fence, I saw Lolly was walking along the fence.
The staff said, “After eating meat, she walks like this.”

If you are observing for a long time, you will understand Lolly’s path, and if you wait there Lolly will come from the front.

Lolly from the back side. What a gorgeous looking snow leopard it is. That snow on the body, lovely.

I really feel Lolly is a charming female, and she needs a mate.

Look at the tail’s design! Look at the design of ears from the back!

Lolly was so active and showed various appearance today.
Finally, Lolly got meat at 16:00. The meat was frozen due to low temperature, but Lolly was chewing on the bones.
And after eating, she was cleaning herself.
I kept observing the lovely Lolly until dark.

Photo: Mariko     Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation: Feb 2017, Captive condition at Naltar Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan
Reference: The local staff of SLF at Naltar Valley

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > - Narltar Valley > - Snow Leopard (in Captivity)
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Lolly the Snow Leopard -2

The story about the Snow Leopard, “Lolly”. (The photo of snow leopard in this article is in captivity, not in wild)

The Snow Leopard Lolly moved from Khunjerab National park check post to Naltar Valley in the winter of 2016. It moved to a larger facility, but it was a different environment from Khunjerab National Park, where she was born.

We visited the Naltar valley in the month of February. The high peaks, villages were very beautifully shrouded in snow, truly a winter wonderland.
We continued to Naltar where heavy snowfall was expected.

Naltar is a heavy snowfall area and is also known for its ski area. It is close to Gilgit, but I had to go by 4WD.

Finally, I arrived at Naltar. I went to the place where Lolly inhabited.
The place was located about 10min walk from Ski slope on the mountain.
But I was unable to find Lorry. I asked the person who is taking care of Lolly, he replied, “Lolly is sleeping in the snow pit, so wait”.
At last! Lolly came out of the snow pit.

Lolly must be about 4 years old. A beautiful female Snow Leopard.

Lolly started to move. This facility is located on the mountain slope. So, sometimes it is difficult to follow Lolly on the snowy slope.

The fence of the facility. If you want to take a beautiful picture, then you need a telephoto lens such as 400mm. Also, to get a better chance of photography, you need patience and time to stay and wait, as Lolly may be sleeping in the day time.
More importantly, it is ideal to stay overnight at Naltar where a simple guest house is available. It will be another winter experience!

Photo: Mariko    Text: Mariko & Sarosh
Observation : Feb 2017, Captive condition at Naltar Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan
Reference: Local staff of SLF at Naltar Valley

Category : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Narltar Valley > - Snow Leopard (in Captivity)
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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: Mariko    Text: Mariko & Sarosh
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 : # Gilgit-Baltistan > ** Wildlife of Pakistan > - Khunjerab National Park > - Snow Leopard (in Captivity)
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