At 12,000 feet oxygen molecules decrease by 40% per breath, but that's when the big cats come out to play. Living mostly above 12,000 feet Snow Leopards travel the 6000 kilometer range of the HImalayan mountains formed over 50 million years ago when the Indian and Eurasian plates merged to create such perilous mountains encompassed with sedimentary and metamorphic rock.
It is estimated that less than 4,000 snow leopards live across 12 countries in Central Asia. However, the numbers continue to decrease because of poaching, loss of habitat and human conflict. The snow leopards are wanted for their beautiful fur as well as teeth, claws and bones used in Asian medicines.
Kashmir World Foundation is pleased to announce a partnership with Quad-i-Azam University through a collaboration with Dr. Muhammad Ali Nawaz, Director of the Snow Leopard Foundation in Pakistan. In recognition for his incredible work with snow leopards in northern Pakistan, Dr. Nawaz was honored to be among the few selected for 2016's Whitley Award one of the most prestigious prizes in the world of nature conservation. (https://goo.gl/pqtpXK) Dr. Nawaz's work with snow leopards offers the best research data available of the high altitude cats in Pakistan.
The partnership came out of chance due to an Engineering student at National University of Science & Technology (NUST) Pakistan, Afeef Ahmed, contacted KwF about the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge. He was so inspired the integration of drones and artificial intelligence for the protection of endangered species that he wanted to help KwF establish a snow leopard partnership in Pakistan. He researched for about 6 months before he finally met with Dr. Nawaz in August 2016 to present the ideas KwF had on snow leopard conservation. Being a leading scientist Dr. Nawaz agreed to a web meeting with Princess Aliyah, KwF's Executive Director with a passion to find innovative solutions for wildlife conservation and protection of endangered species
In June 2017, Dr. Nawaz met the KwF Drone Engineering Team Front Royal Virginia where Dr. Nawaz took his first drone flight. He immediately recognized the amount of time surveys with drones could provide along with many other benefits of aerial monitoring in snow leopard range.
The partnership will focusing on developing an APP to enter field data and synchronize with the central data base. Kashmir Robotics application of deep learning and computer vision will enhance the efficiency and reliability of interpreting images from camera traps, integrating unmanned aerial robotics to expand coverage, and provide persistent imagery of snow leopard habitats.
Kashmir Robotics will develop & deploy UASs in snow leopard habitats for 3D maps. Robotic aircraft have the potential to efficiently, consistently, and cost effectively monitor vast areas. Useful data can be collected and processed regularly to provide researchers and conservationist with a more comprehensive and immediate understanding of the situation. This data can provide new insight into species habitats and used to make informed decisions about resource allocation in the field.
The project will rely on the collaboration of scientists, engineers and local communities. The four phases of the project each has it's own challenges and accomplishments.