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29 Jun 2021 | Transboundary Landscapes

Experts call for greater focus on mountain-specific conservation issues

Ghulam Ali, Syed Muhammad Abubakar, Lily Shrestha & Lipy Adhikari

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A snow leopard captured by a camera trap at Khunjerab National Park, Pakistan. Less than 10% of mountain protected areas cover the snow leopard’s typical home range. This has led to increased human–wildlife interactions with the otherwise elusive cat. (Photo: Ali Gohar/KNP)

The global biodiversity conservation agenda needs to be customized to the local context if we are to make significant advances, say experts who convened during a webinar focused on the HKH region. Since mountains constitute around 24% of the world’s land area and host about half of the global biodiversity hotspots, mountain-specific issues and solutions deserve greater prominence in the global biodiversity conservation discourse and approach. Focusing on the Hindu Kush Karakoram Pamir Landscape (HKPL) in particular, participants were able to understand more about this alpine ecosystem which houses immense biodiversity and faces increasing challenges of habitat fragmentation, declining genetic diversity, poaching, and human–wildlife conflict.

Sandro Lovari, Chair, Steering Committee of the Snow Leopard Network, spoke about protecting flagship species such as the snow leopard and reducing human interference in nature. Interestingly, less than 10% of mountain protected areas cover the snow leopard’s typical home range, which means that snow leopards live in buffer zones or even further away from these protected areas. In recent times, there have been more reports of human–wildlife interactions with the otherwise elusive snow leopard. Protected areas need to be expanded at the landscape level and more robust socio-ecological studies are required to understand the cat’s behaviour and ecology.

The experts also discussed the inextricable links among biodiversity loss, wildlife habitat degradation and zoonotic diseases. Over 30 new human pathogens have been detected in the last three decades, 75% of which have originated in animals. These developments could be the result of humanity’s intrusive, exploitative relationship with nature characterized by illegal and high-risk wildlife trade and unsustainable food systems, including agricultural intensification and the trade and consumption of bush meat.


A more biodiverse and resilient roof of the world

Our webinar – jointly organized with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (GSLEP) – marked the International Day for Biological Diversity 2021 and spotlighted conservation challenges in the HKPL, which represents “Bam-e-Dunya” (“roof of the world” in Persian). In line with the International Day for Biological Diversity theme for 2021, “we’re part of the solution”, our Director General, Pema Gyamtsho, spoke about the role of partnerships and reiterated ICIMOD’s commitment to foster partnerships that can promote biodiversity conservation, and that will identify and share information about effective local solutions.

The webinar included presentations from conservation experts on human–wildlife interaction in the high mountains of Asia; illegal wildlife trade, zoonotic diseases, and pandemics in Asia’s high mountain ecosystem; and human–wildlife conflict in the Wakhan region. These were followed by a discussion (and Q&A session) between two experts from China and Pakistan on biodiversity challenges, strategies, and opportunities.

This webinar was the third episode of the Bam-e-Dunya webinar series – a dedicated platform to enhance and share knowledge on strengthening joint management efforts towards sustainable biodiversity and conservation across landscapes.


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