Situated in southern Asia just north of the Tropic of Cancer, Pakistan lies at the intersection of three of the world’s eight biogeographical realms—Afrotropical, Indomalayan, and Palearctic—and is rich in biodiversity.

A little over three times the size of Britain, Pakistan encompasses an enormously varied topography. Two-thirds of the country is mountainous. Mountain ranges and plateaus comprise the western half of the country and along the borders with Afghanistan and Iran, and the north of the country to the border with China is traversed by the Himalayas, reaching 8,611 m at K2, the world’s second-highest peak. In the south-east, the Indus River Valley widens to a low-lying irrigated alluvial plain that extends towards the eastern border with India and marks the western end of the vast Indo-Gangetic Plain. Pakistan’s temperate climate is equally diverse. Although predominantly an arid and semi-arid country, it becomes progressively cooler in the northern mountains and the Himalayas, which receive the most monsoon rainfall.

This varied climate and relief has given rise to a wide range of terrestrial ecosystems and rich biodiversity. In the south, thorn forest and sand dune deserts dominate below 1,000 m, and mangroves are found in the Indus River Delta and along the Arabian Sea coast. Between 1,000 and 3,000m xeric woodlands and shrub forests take over, and in the north alpine steppes, dry broadleaf forests, dry coniferous forests and grasslands lie at the base of the permanent snowfields and glaciers of the Himalayan mountains.

Pakistan is home to 195 mammal species, including the threatened and elusive Snow Leopard (Vulnerable), Indus River Dolphin (Endangered) and endemic Baluchistan Forest Dormouse (Vulnerable); 668 bird species, such as the Sociable Lapwing (Critically Endangered) and Western Tragopan (Vulnerable); 177 reptile species, 22 species of amphibians (of which nine are endemic), and 5,700 species of flowering plants.

Pakistan’s rich biodiversity is under severe threat from human activity. Much of the thorn forests in the Indus River Valley have been cleared for agriculture, and increasing livestock has led to habitat degradation due to over-grazing. Other threats include deforestation for domestic fuel and building materials, poaching, increased soil salinity and waterlogging from irrigation, excessive use of fertilizers, soil erosion, and degradation and fragmentation of freshwater habitats due to dams and barrages. To prevent the continued loss of Pakistan’s rich biodiversity, WLT partnered with the International Snow Leopard Trust in 2023 to establish the Bashqar Gol Biosphere Reserve in northern Pakistan.

Our partners in Pakistan

Current projects in Pakistan

Bashqar Gol Biosphere Reserve

WLT began its partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust in 2022 to fund and establish the Bashqar Gol Biosphere Reserve in the Laspur Valley, situated in north-west Pakistan. Snow Leopards in this mountainous region are under threat by habitat degradation due to deforestation from subsistence timber extraction, retaliatory killing by local herders over livestock predation, and poaching. The new Bashqar Gol Biosphere Reserve will protect 92,000 ha (227,337 acres) of Snow Leopard habitat.

The proposed reserve will protect much of this area’s rich biodiversity including the Snow Leopard (Vulnerable), prey species such as the Siberian Ibex (Near Threatened), other large mammals including Brown Bear, Grey Wolf, Eurasian Lynx and Golden Jackal (all Least Concern), birds like the Bearded Vulture (Near Threatened) and Himalayan Snowcock (Least Concern), and freshwater fish including the Snow Trout (Vulnerable).

With WLT support, SLT will identify and map critical habitats of the Bashqar Gol and the Shandor Plateau, create a management plan, and submit the proposal for formal designation as a Biosphere Reserve to the Provincial Wildlife Department. The Wildlife Department will manage the reserve with local Valley Conservation Committees, which will include management of human-wildlife conflict, and six community wildlife guards are to be supported to increase protection and carry out wildlife surveillance. Over the course of this two-year project, 100 ha (247 acres) of degraded land will be restored by planting 50,000 native trees.

A view of Snow Leopard habitat in the Laspur Valley

Key species protected by WLT projects