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Snow Leopard – beyond the myth

Nisar Malik

Nisar Malik

The ABC ran this beautiful program last night, our second snow leopard program on Melbourne TV in a week! It tracks the filming of a female snow leopard and her cub by Nisar Malik, a Pakistani journalist along with cameraman Mark Smith. They spent 18 months and two extreme winters getting footage of the cat hunting, resting, playing.

Malik was one of the team who got the first ever videos of wild snow leopards in 2004 for David Attenborough’s Planet Earth – The Mountains episode. He was so bewitched by the animal at the time he felt he had to go back and make a full length documentary about it and its habitat in the wilds of the Hindu Kush, the remote mountains where Pakistan meets Afghanistan.

After the first winter when the two men filmed the female and her cub they return later in summer after the devastating earthquake in Pakistan only to search for 8 weeks in vain. The only thing of interest they see are marmots, the small rodents snow leopards love to feast on.

Mark Smith films them from a hide but after two weeks he says wearily “I hate marmots” and hope they deafen each other with their vicious shrieks. Having spent many hours myself counting marmots in freezing weather, on my own, with nothing more than a chocolate bar to keep me sane, I know exactly how he feels.

Radio collared female. BBC film by Nisar Malik.

Radio collared female. BBC film by Nisar Malik.

Anyway Malik and Smith return again the next winter and meet their female cat again, only to discover she’s been radio collared. Malik is shocked (and I must say I was too when we see how its done). But, listening to the Snow Leopard Trust’s Tom McCarthy explain and see the cat doing her normal hunting and other behaviours we understand that she’s OK. We all know it’s important to get information about the cats in the wild in order to protect them longterm and this is really the only way.

Nisar’s photo gallery of this trip here.

Here is a small piece of the documentary from YouTube.

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Meg May 11, 2009, 6:24 am

    Nisar Malik – what a man! His documentary “Snow Leopard – beyond the myth” showed the emotional depth of the man, his passion for his country and the beautiful yet elusive Snow Leopard. I felt I was actually there with his team watching over the tagged female leopard, anxious to know if she could still hunt effectively.
    Mark Smith’s photography was brillant.
    Anyone who views this documentary can clearly understand the cats endangered existance.

  • Sibylle May 13, 2009, 12:10 am

    Looks like we all reacted the same way to the collar and I’m wondering, that footage was taken in 2007, perhaps now two years on the collars may be smaller with technology advances.
    BTW, I’ll put this is a post, but that particular cat, called Bayad by the team that collared her reported the collar fell off about a year ago, so she probably only had it for 6-9ths.

  • scott orbon November 22, 2009, 2:30 am

    Great Job…

    Nasir, we appreciate your willingness to share your story with us!
    If your in Dallas, Tx – We will take you out to dinner

  • Nisar Malik January 21, 2010, 12:14 pm

    Hello Scott … my brother lives in Houston .. so next time when I am over I will take you up on your offer! :)
    Thank you all for enjoying the program … we truly enjoyed the project (understatement) which actually took 5 years from start to broadcast!
    Our leopard is now without the collar and was spotted a few weeks ago!
    Very best Nisar.

  • Verity Willcocks February 5, 2010, 2:00 pm

    Hi Nisar

    How can I get hold of Mark Smith in relation to a NatGeo series we are currently in re-production with?


  • rashad ishaq July 15, 2010, 10:12 am

    hi nisar,
    i am so impressed to see your documentary about the Snow leopard .i always wondered that is there a person in Pakistan who can make documentaries about the endangered species in Pakistan.Snow leopard definitely needs a lot more attention in this purpose .i see your documentary as a wonderful effort for the cause .I hope you will do some more programe like, one about the Blind Dolphin of the Indus river.

  • shaleen gupta July 16, 2010, 8:34 pm

    Nisar sir….hat off for your initiative to help save these few remaining animals…..!!
    its amazing how u potrayed them…n i loved the pakistani terrain n the natural beauty…never thought that pakistan has this nice hills n snow…..!!

  • zakria rehman August 6, 2010, 6:58 am

    sir nisar malik
    i really like your documentary on discovery ..its really a gr8 effort to save snow leopard. really we need people like you…those ll project positive image of our country. n there are many endangered species looking some or help….n to be record on film….it is my earnest desire that if i could work as a volunteer for saving these animals n birds..n to capture their shots in my camera.
    i really appreciate ur work.keep it up.

  • sonya battla August 8, 2010, 11:16 pm

    Fantastic…you make me so proud….very rare in Pakistan. Have two enquiries 1. Are you interseted in having this published as a book by a pakistani publisher ?
    2. I’m a wild life enthusiast, and a designer by profession. I have a series of shoots coming up which will be featured in atleast 4 major magazines every month or quarter… for all of next year (2011) for that I wanted to highlight a different Pakistani wild animal or bird…can you help with the rare ones? …(need them living not trophies)
    (i couldnt find your email, or wld’ve sent you a full-fledged explanation).

  • Usama Mazhar August 12, 2010, 9:55 pm

    Dear Nisar,
    I travelled to Chitral this summer and finally had the opportunity to visit the terrain that the snow leopard lives in. To say I loved your work would be an understatement. I’m highly interested in knowing more about this elusive, mythical creature. Could you shed light on how the population of snow leopards has done over the past few years? Also, what were the findings of the collar? Where does this animal travel to in the summer?

  • Elliette January 15, 2011, 3:22 pm

    I watched this documentary again this morning (in Australia), and again it burned me to see that collar! I remain of the view that no matter what the honourable focus of research to help this animal, it is counterproductive to attach such a collar and bright blue ear clips.

    Why not just put a flashing neon sign saying “you’d better run, because I’m coming to get you!! “. If Bayard is hampered in her hunt for food she could starve to death. How could that help the species?

    Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.
    (But every cloud does have a silver lining………..the collar has gone!) Perhaps we can advance to a collar in leopard colours if further research is necessary?

    I grew up in ‘pindi where my mother was born. I remember the wonder of being so young and free there.

    I hope Bayard is thriving, she is a beauty!

  • Mustafa Asghar Ali February 17, 2011, 2:24 am

    Saw your documentary about Snow Leopard. Really want to appreciate about extra ordinary hard work and risk undertaken in making this documentary so interesting and worth watching. Hats off to you and the entire team.

  • Sibylle February 17, 2011, 2:34 pm

    you’ll be pleased to know the colllars are much smaller now and also the blue tags on the ears are no longer used. I was talking to 2 snow leopard scientists in India yesterday, they are also unhappy about collaring individual cats, but at present it is the only way to get information and this information helps policy makers decide on nature reserves etc.

  • Sibylle February 17, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I will pass your reply onto Nisar, I agree his documentary was ground breaking for snow leopard conservation!

  • Yvie Rijsdijk March 6, 2011, 10:32 am

    It was Hugh Miles ans Mitchell Kelly who disurve credit to be the first to film the snow leopard with his wonderful documentary “Silent Roar – In Search of the Snow Leopard” where first images where shot in 1999. It is only fair to mention this.

  • andres lomovasky May 28, 2011, 2:06 pm

    Hi Nisar Malik.

    great job … I hope to continue and its fruit.

    at least, is already generating excitement and awareness.

    Greetings from Argentina

  • Shakir Ali June 15, 2011, 5:32 pm

    Hi Mr. Nisar

    Wonderful job. Sir is there any chances for the youth to join the organisation where you are working in. I desperately wants to join you and i really like the job what you do.

    Hope to get back from you soon.


  • Muhammad.Imran October 5, 2011, 1:59 am

    Nisar Malik Sahab,,,,.Hat off for your initiative to help save these few remaining animals. as i traveled and document al around the pakistan and always wanted to make good impression in foreign country, especially your effort to protect this beautiful animal will helps a lot to promote and make good image rest of the world.
    Allah Bless you all who do care our beautiful country.

  • Aishwarya February 17, 2012, 1:05 am

    I am just smitten by the beauty of this amazing creature…..
    This is such a noble cause, and hats off to all those who took so much effort to make this priceless documentary…..
    Wish I could be one of them….

  • Anita Fern February 26, 2012, 5:13 am

    Hi Nisar

    What a wonderful documentary, i also share your love for the snow leopard. Will you be doing a follow on DVD with the information collected from the collar? This would show us all that capturing them with traps and collaring was worth the while, as the scientist stated.

  • Nisar Malik April 4, 2012, 6:09 am

    Thank you all. I am sorry I do not have a regular way to get these emails and therefore have not managed to reply. I am available on nisar@walkaboutfilms.tv for anyone who would like to get in touch. We are actively working with remote communities in our efforts to save Snow Leopards as well as the other wildlife. At the moment we have been commissioned to film the common leopard (panthera paradus) in Pakistan.
    Our collective thanks to Sibylle for the forum and for all the good work.
    Best wishes,

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