ISLAMABAD - US Ambassador Richard Olson has underscored the United States’ strong commitment to wildlife conservation in Pakistan in his opening remarks at Wildlife Conservation Day, co-hosted by Quaid-I-Azam University.

Eighty students, activists, and government officials watched “Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth” a documentary filmed in Pakistan by Pakistani filmmaker Nisar Malik. After the film, they participated in a panel discussion with Pakistan wildlife experts to discuss conservation, human-animal conflict, animal trafficking, and solutions to problems facing wildlife.

“Wildlife trafficking affects all of us. Protecting wildlife means protecting our planet’s natural beauty for generations to come. But wildlife trafficking is also a national security issue, a public health issue, and an economic issue that is critical to countries and communities worldwide,” Ambassador Olson said before the film screening.

“This film tells the snow leopard’s real story - a story that is ultimately true of all wildlife everywhere. It is a story of interaction and, at times, conflict between humans and animals. This story demonstrates how a rare creature’s existence depends on sustained cooperation among local communities, organisations, the private sector, and government authorities,” he added.

Ambassador Olson announced two new sources of US funding for wildlife conservation in Pakistan. A new USAID-funded programme with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Snow Leopard Trust will improve cooperation among Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, and Pakistan on snow leopard conservation and climate change adaptation in Asia’s high mountain landscapes.  Second, Ambassador Olson announced that the Ambassador’s Fund in Pakistan would focus on wildlife conservation projects in local communities.

The United States and Pakistan have a rich history of cooperation on wildlife conservation, including the 2006 transfer of an abandoned snow leopard cub from Northern Pakistan to the Bronx Zoo in New York with the cooperation of the Government of Pakistan, the US Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Conservation Union, among others.  Wildlife Conservation Day marks the start of a global campaign announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to bring wildlife trafficking and conservation issues to the forefront by increasing bilateral and regional policy dialogues around wildlife; encouraging governments to strengthen domestic laws and increase resources to combat international wildlife trade; using social media outlets to spread the word; and engaging and highlighting civil society efforts to tackle wildlife challenges.