GILGIT – Seven individuals suffered frostbite due to severe frosty weather in Gilgit-Baltistan area in a bid to rescue a snow leopard and wildlife officials who were deputed to protect it, it has been learnt.

According to reports, three officials of a Snow Leopard Rehabilitation Center established in Naltar Valley had been deputed to look after a snow leopard which was kept at the centre.

However, the officials lost contact with the locals due to heavy snowfall in recent days.

Fearing for their safety, four locals from the Naltar Valley headed to reach the rehabilitation centre to lend a helping hand to the stranded wildlife officials.

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The local volunteers, despite the challenging conditions, were able to reach the rehabilitation centre and rescue the stranded officials, and the snow leopard, but in the process they suffered frostbite in their feet, said wildlife officials on condition of anonymity.

The volunteers who endangered their lives to rescue wildlife officials have been identified as Hakeem, Ghulam Rasool, Farooq Azam and Abdul Hameed.

The frostbite affectees have been shifted to the District Headquarters Hospital Gilgit for treatment.

The IUCN’s Red List has already classified snow leopards as ‘most-endangered’. But despite their importance — for they are considered an ‘iconic flagship species of the mountains of Central Asia’ in Pakistan — they continue to face threats.

Poachers kill them for their furs, and herders often attack the animals in retaliation for their attacks on their livestock.