This Pakistani documentary is about saving the snow leopard

This Pakistani documentary is about saving the snow leopard

People couldn't believe 'In Pursuit of Phantom' was shot in Pakistan
Updated 21 Dec, 2018

Among the snow-capped mountains, and a rugged and unforgiving terrain, only the fittest survive and that is the very home and hunting ground of the snow leopard.

At the PACC on Wednesday, a documentary titled The Pursuit of Phantom showcased the work of a group of dedicated conservationists who painstakingly tracked the snow leopard in the Khunjerab National Park and adjoining areas in Gilgit-Baltistan.

A Woodnote Films documentary, directed by Abdullah Khan, it is a fascinating journey into uncharted territory where amid an inhospitable environment, the snow leopard survives.

A scene from In Pursuit of Phantom.—Tahir Jamal / White Star
A scene from In Pursuit of Phantom.—Tahir Jamal / White Star

According to assistant editor Celesta von Chamier, who had flown to Karachi especially for the screening, many times people have asked her where the documentary is shot. “They do not believe that it is entirely shot in Pakistan, that Pakistan can be so beautiful. This country is a very stunning place. This showreel was filmed 100 per cent in Pakistan, by Pakistanis and for Pakistanis.”

‘They do not believe that it is entirely shot in Pakistan, that Pakistan can be so beautiful’

The absence of director Abdullah Khan was most potently felt; however, she shared the reason behind his absence. “Abdullah received a call from Chitral National Park after sightings of wolves there, which is another project he is working on.”

According to the documentary, snow leopards are one of the most difficult cats to film in the wild. “They are extremely elusive and superbly camouflaged in the rocky terrain they inhabit. This documentary is truly [a] labour of love,” said the organisers.

Tracking them was a daunting task for the team and involved charting a treacherous terrain, enduring physical hardships, and witnessing carcasses of livestock that had been attacked in the night, leaving villagers bereft of their means of livelihood. The documentary beautifully captured the dilemma between saving an endangered species and protecting the main source of income for villagers and herders.

“One snow leopard is killed every day, and 450 annually; more than half of these are killings in retaliation by herders which are a major threat to the survival of these cats. There are around 7,000 snow leopards left in the wild. There is no system in place here that would help these people protect their livestock against such attacks, and only garner negativity against the species,” said the documentary.

These facts raise grave concerns regarding the lack of conservation by the government. According to recent research, snow leopards are now listed as endangered according to IUCN Red List of mammals. Snow leopards are not the only animals that make an appearance in the documentary; the ibex is also shown in all its glory, navigating an unforgiving landscape and surviving a blistering winter on the scarce food sources available. The fox, alpine chough and many other flesh-eating birds — those that feed on the carcasses of the snow leopard’s kill — were used to track the magnificent cat, and also feature in the documentary.

In Pursuit of Phantom is not the first Woodnote production. The professional wildlife film-making entity has also made documentaries on different varieties of kingfishers. Equipped with the latest technology, and fresh storytelling techniques, they aim to tell stories about Pakistan to the world.

Originally published in Dawn, December 21st, 2018


Hi Dec 21, 2018 11:47am
Road projects through gb are killing them.
Egoist Dec 21, 2018 12:39pm
Great. How can we watch it?
Zahid Dec 21, 2018 04:28pm
Thanks to the team .We are indebted to you for the service
Khan Dec 21, 2018 08:11pm
Thanks for making what is required for Pakistan to portray its real face
Zahra Hassan - Agha Dec 22, 2018 08:00pm
Thank you for writing about it. How can we watch it?
Hopeless Khan Dec 22, 2018 10:08pm
Very little is left, we must wake up before everything is finished.