Gojal, home to Wakhi people, is the area along the upper Hunza River . . . in the heart of the Karakoram mountains. Outside Baltistan, Gojal is the Karakorum’’s most extensively glaciated region, with a population of 14,700 people.
…Trekking in the Karakoram & Hindu Kush, by John Mock and Kimberley O’Neil,
Lonely Planet Publications, January 2002
Within the Karakoram range, Khunjerab National Park is considered Pakistan’s premiere protected area for high-altitude species like snow leopard and Marco Polo sheep. Within the Park’s buffer zone lie the seven settlements that comprise the Khunjerab Village Organization (KVO). Since 2003 the Snow Leopard Conservancy has partnered with KVO, the Northern Areas Wildlife Department, and the Khunjerab Park authority.
A rotational grazing plan has been put in place, and the condition of the grass in the high pastures has been improved. Shepherds have been hired via a matching fees program for all seven settlements to reduce daytime predation. Livestock health and insurance programs were expanded. Predator-proofed corrals have served as models for northern Pakistan and the Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan program.
In 2008 KVO hosted a delegation of village leaders from the Wakhan District of Afghanistan, who wanted to learn about the construction of predator-proof corrals and the monitoring of snow leopards and their prey using camera traps and other non-invasive techniques. The following year, KVO’s Conservancy-trained wildlife guide, Hussain Ali, went to Afghanistan to train community rangers in wildlife survey techniques. These study exchanges were supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society under a USAID project.
Community members have monitored snow leopard sign and blue sheep-ibex populations for five years, using sign transects and remote cameras. Two of the shepherds have received paraveterinary training, and shepherds selectively reduced the overpopulation of male sheep and goats by neutering all but the healthiest males. Unneutered males were kept separate from females to restrict lambing to once a year. Only 17 animals were lost in 2009 compared to 180 in 2007 and 105 in 2008. We see these accomplishments as powerful endorsements for community-managed conservation initiatives for the snow leopard and its prey.