An endangered snow leopard that had retreated up a tree near a village was shot by some of the residents who claimed self-defense. The wild cat was said by a villager to have remained in the tree for eight hours.
The location was the remote town of Rawalkot in Azad Kashmir.
Initially villagers noticed the snow leopard near settled areas and contacted a local official who told them to scare it away with firecrackers. They killed it instead. Their defense for the cat’s death was protecting
human life, however no verified attack on a human by a snow leopard has ever taken place, according to the Snow Leopard Trust. Snow leopards are known to be very wary of humans and remain far away in mountainous areas. They only time they may be aggressive is when they have cubs and people are getting to close to them. Snow leopards reportedly will not even defend an animal they have killed and are eating, if humans approach. Snow leopards have been said to be the least aggressive of the large cats.
So it seems more likely the villagers were the aggressors and merely used self-defense as a justification for their behavior. The fact they skinned and dressed the cat and distributed its meat throughout the village suggests they may have had an ulterior motive. Last year another snow leopard was also shot and killed in the same area. Another clue the main motivation was not self-defense is a local superstition consuming snow leopard is beneficial for treatment of orthopedic diseases. This kind of irrational belief is also
driving the illegal trade in wildlife (tiger body parts and rhino horns) putting species on the verge of extinction. The mere fact such a belief exists suggests strongly there has been a historical practice of killing snow leopards to eat them.
The Snow Leopard Conservancy has been working with communities living near snow leopard habitats to reduce the number of killings and to help villagers economically.
Image Credit: Niabot, Wiki Commons