The UNDP and the Government of Kyrgyzstan launched a project on 'Transboundary Cooperation for Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Conservation,' financed by the GEF, at an event celebrating International Snow Leopard Day.
The four-year project will address existing and emerging threats that snow leopard populations and local communities face in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
21 October: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Kyrgyzstan launched a project on ‘Transboundary Cooperation for Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Conservation,’ financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), at an event celebrating International Snow Leopard Day. The initiative will strengthen global trans-boundary efforts to conserve snow leopards and their high mountain ecosystems.
The four-year project will address existing and emerging threats that snow leopard populations and local communities face in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It will also include pilot work in the Sarychat/Central Tien Shan mountain range. The project is funded by US$1 million from the GEF and US$4.196 million in co-financing. It will be implemented by the Snow Leopard Trust.
The launch event took place on 21 October 2016 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It was organized by the Government of Kyrgyzstan, UNDP, and the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (GSLEP). Participants presented actions taken by governments and partners for conserving snow leopards and their high mountain ecosystems in ways that strengthen the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities.
Opening the event, Abdykalyk Rustamov, Director, State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry of Kyrgyzstan, noted that 15 years ago the snow leopard population in the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve almost disappeared but, thanks to conservation efforts, photo trap monitoring shows the presence of about 20 leopards, which will spur future conservation efforts. Kyial Alygulova, Manager GSLEP Secretariat, explained that the Snow Leopard is a sacred species in Kyrgyzstan and announced that GSLEP will soon publish a brochure on community involvement in snow leopard conservation. The brochure will be distributed in schools to foster youth engagement.
Midori Paxton, UNDP, explained that the snow leopard is a direct indicator for the health of the surrounding ecosystem. She described eight UNDP national projects and one regional project that address, inter alia: threats to snow leopards at local, regional and national levels; community-based conservation; implementation of standardized monitoring systems; poaching; and trans-boundary cooperation. She highlighted UNDP’s efforts to align this conservation work with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Peter Zahler, Wildlife Conservation Society, spoke about the human dimension of snow leopard conservation. He noted that the communities that live in areas inhabited by snow leopards are generally very poor, because of their remoteness, and depend on natural resources. He stressed the opportunity for natural resource management projects to engage people and boost the local economy with the provision of training and jobs.
John Farrington, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), presented cultural activities to engage children and youth in snow leopard range countries, and explained how sensitizing communities aids conservation. He recommended investing in local economies, such as through irrigation systems for agriculture, to increase people’s incomes and decrease incentives for poaching. During the event, UNDP and the GEF also launched the publication, ‘Silent Roar: UNDP and GEF in the Snow Leopard Landscape.’ The report discusses threats to snow leopards, the communities inhabiting these mountainous ecosystems, and a range of holistic solutions. Main threats to leopards include habitat loss and degradation, human-wildlife conflict, a lack of transboundary cooperation, poaching and illegal wildlife trade and climate change. A closing invocation for the event was offered by Zhaparkul Ata, indigenous cultural practitioner and sacred site guardian.
Main threats to snow leopards include habitat loss and degradation, human-wildlife conflict, a lack of transboundary cooperation, poaching and illegal wildlife trade, and climate change.
In conjunction with the Day, WWF launched the publication, ‘An Ounce of Prevention: Snow Leopard Crime Revisited,’ which discusses snow leopard poaching and trafficking 13 years after TRAFFIC’s first report on the subject, ‘Fading Footprints: The Killing and Trade of Snow Leopards.’ The report builds on a preliminary analysis published in May 2016 and addresses an information gap concerning the linkage between retaliatory killing for livestock depredation and poaching for trade, and the scale at which both occur.
International Snow Leopard Day, celebrated annually on 23 October 2013, commemorates the endorsement of the ‘Bishkek Declaration on the Conservation of Snow Leopards’ by the Governments of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Kingdom of Bhutan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan. [UNDP Press Release] [Silent Roar: UNDP and GEF in the Snow Leopard Landscape] [An Ounce of Prevention: Snow Leopard Crime Revisited] [IISD RS Story on the Day] [IISD RS Sources]