Securing Key Landscapes for the Iconic Cat Also Helps Livelihoods and Climate Resilience
BISHKEK, June 18, 2014 – Officials and experts from the snow leopard range countries came together to identify 20 mountain landscapes across Asia to be protected through intensive conservation efforts and green economic growth over the next 6 years. The delegates gathered at the pristine Lake Issyk‐Kul in the lap of the Kyrgyz Tien Shan Mountains.
This was a follow up to the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum held in October 2013, under the leadership of Almazbek Atambaev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The workshop was the first followup collective action by the range countries and partners after adopting the Bishkek Declaration and endorsing the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystems Protection (GSLEP) Program during the Forum.
The countries agreed to develop landscape management plans to guide action to help conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, while enabling inclusive economic growth in these mountain landscapes. A third of humanity depends on clean water and other ecosystem services provided by the snow leopard mountains of Asia.
Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT), congratulated the delegates for their resolve to secure 20 landscapes by 2020. “This is a significant first step in realizing the vision of snow leopard conservation and the inclusive growth of local communities shared by President Almazbek Atambayev, the snow leopard range countries, and the international conservation community.”
“The problem of snow leopard conservation is complicated and complex, and cannot be solved by the environmental agencies only. It requires personal participation of leaders of our countries on cross‐border cooperation, and involvement of various sectors of the economy and the private sector. The need of the hour is to coordinate the efforts of all the range states of the snow leopard, because our strength is in the unity of approaches and actions,” said Joomart Jumabekov, Head of the Department of Agriculture and Ecology of the Government Office of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The workshop was organized by the international working secretariat that has been established in Bishkek after the global forum to facilitate further development of the GSLEP Program among the range countries.
Sabir Atadjanov, Director of the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic remarked, “I am deeply grateful for the support of the range countries to the initiative of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic in holding the Global Forum on snow leopard conservation. I am pleased to announce the launch of Working Secretariat in Bishkek and pledge continued support to its activities. We also welcome and fully support the development of the first two‐year implementation plan with specific priorities within the GSLEP, including national and global priority actions for 2014‐15 as well as the development of key performance indicators.”
“It was an informative workshop which will lead the way towards the conservation of snow leopards, a species of global significance, while working towards improving the lives of local communities,” said Syed Mubarik Ali Shah, Chief Conservator Wildlife, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department, Pakistan.
Irina Fominykh, Deputy Director, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, said, “Our efforts to safeguard endangered flagship species and their habitats are strongly supported at the highest political levels in Russia, and we are happy to join forces and exchange knowledge with other range countries participating in the global programs such as on tigers and snow leopards. I am confident that the new Big Cats Project, now under preparation at the Russian Far East, South Siberia, and the Caucasus, will be an important building block of these efforts – nationally and globally.”
“Following our experience with the Global Tiger Initiative, the urgent task after the global forum is to start translating the strong political will into concrete ‘bankable’ projects with a measurable impact on the ground that could be supported by the range country governments, businesses, and the international community. The Issyk‐Kul meeting has indeed switched our conversation to a very concrete, project‐oriented mode,” emphasized Andrey Kushlin, Program Manager at the World Bank.
“UNDP, in consortium with other international organizations, has been supporting efforts of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic in conserving its biodiversity and natural heritage and in this regard it is riveting to see that within the scope of the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Programme, the range countries have actively embarked upon implementing specific locally tailored measures such as cross‐border cooperation and establishment of a reliable system of coordination and monitoring of the snow leopard habitats. Moreover, biodiversity conservation is prioritized in the National Strategy on Sustainable Development of the Kyrgyz Republic and I am confident that jointly we’ll achieve significant results towards conservation of these unique species,” said Alexander Avanessov, UN Resident Coordinator and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Mary Melnyk, Environment Team Leader for Asia at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), said, “Snow leopard habitat overlaps the headwaters of Asia’s great rivers. USAID’s investment in their conservation has many benefits, including healthy lives and livelihoods for high‐mountain communities and a sustained water source for people living on farms and in towns and cities downstream, many of whom are extremely poor. Sustaining water supplies is critically important in a world experiencing climate change.”
Keshav Varma, Senior Advisor to the GSLEP Secretariat, underlined the strong sense of collective urgency, “Saving snow leopards is not just about the beautiful cats. Saving snow leopards also means preserving the heritage, livelihoods, and traditional ways of life of mountain cultures while bringing ecologically responsible economic development into their fragile landscapes, and we must act now.”
More than 40 delegates from 10 range countries and multiple international organizations participated in the workshop held from 6‐10 June, which included intensive sessions on landscape identification, management planning, law enforcement, and conservation leadership. Various organizations played a role, including the State Agency of Environmental Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Global Environment Facility, Global Tiger Initiative, INTERPOL, NABU, Snow Leopard Network, Snow Leopard Trust, United Nations Development Programme, United States Agency for International Development, World Bank, and World Wide Fund for Nature.
Tologon Mamasaliev: +996‐707‐008‐833, email@example.com
Koustubh Sharma: +91‐98‐7114‐4991, firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 29, 2014, the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry (SAEPF) of Kyrgyz Republic, along with the Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the area of wildlife conservation, valid for 10 years.
“This MoU is a significant milestone as it will strengthen our relationship with the SAEPF and other state organizations and help us to reach our conservation goals”, says Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science and Conservation Director. “For instance, the strong partnership will help us launch our new pilot ‘Citizen Ranger Rewards Program’ aimed at helping park rangers and community members work together to end illegal poaching in key snow leopard areas.”
Media advisory, June 4, 2014.
Range countries, experts meet in Kyrgyz Republic to identify key habitats to be protected for the endangered snow leopard.
The international effort to save the endangered snow leopard is moving along. Having adopted the landmark Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program in October 2013, the 12 countries that are home to this elusive big cat will gather for a workshop in the Kyrgyz Republic this June to carry the momentum forward.
The Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) calls for at least 20 secure snow leopard landscapes to be protected by 2020 across the 12 countries. Identifying these landscapes and prioritizing measures to protect them is one of the main objectives of this workshop.
Another focus is on enhancing the capacity of the conservation experts and policy makers who will lead the implementation of this program to save the endangered snow leopard in their various countries. To this end, participants will also undergo training in Adaptive Leadership for Conservation, delivered by the World Bank Institute.
Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP): National Focal Points Action Planning, Leadership and Capacity Development Workshop.
Hosted by the State Agency of Environmental Protection and Forestry of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. Co-organized and cosponsored by the GSLEP Working Secretariat, Global Environment Facility, Global Tiger Initiative, INTERPOL, NABU, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Snow Leopard Trust, UNDP, USAID, World Bank, WCS and WWF.
June 5 – 12, 2014
Kapriz Recreation Center, Baktuu-Dolonoty, lssyk Kul Region, Kyrgyz Republic
- Identify 20 snow leopard landscapes to be secured by 2020
- Enhance capacity of national and international practitioners and develop effective leadership teams to support the implementation of the GSLEP on national level
- Define next steps: Agree on national and global priority activities and develop performance indicators to measure progress toward the goal.
Please use the hashtag #globalsnowleopard for reporting and getting updates about the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystems Protection Program
Koustubh Sharma, Deputy Program Officer, Working Secretariat of the GSLEP, email@example.com, +996-512-18-116
Andrew Zakharenka, Program Officer, Global Tiger Initiative, firstname.lastname@example.org, +996-777-419-750
USA / Europe:
Andrew Oplas, Communications Officer, Global Tiger Initiative, email@example.com, +1-202-458-1013
Matt Fiechter, Communications Officer, Snow Leopard Trust, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1-206-632-2421
Sad news from the South Gobi: Earlier this month, Mongolian field researcher Sumbee Tomorsukh discovered the carcass of a dead snow leopard. Next to the body, he found the missing GPS radio collar that Ariun, one of the male cats in our study, had been wearing.
Sumbee saw no obvious signs of foul play, and the collar, which was undamaged, had dropped off as programmed. The carcass was not in a condition where it could be identified. Sumbee took tissue and bone samples for possible DNA, but analyzing them might take a very long time. Until then, we unfortunately won’t know for sure if the dead cat is Ariun.
Collar had been missing since October
In 2013, some of our GPS collars we use to track snow leopards in the South Gobi had stopped sending location data to the satellite, so these cats, including Ariun, dropped off our radar (read more here).
However, their collars continued to emit radio signals that can be detected from a short distance with radio antennas. Our field teams kept listening for these signals in the areas of these cat’s last known locations, but didn’t find anything – until this month, when Sumbee finally heard a faint signal; far from where we had initially been looking.
He tracked it down to a ravine in the Tosonbumba mountains. There, he found Ariun’s missing collar, next to a snow leopard carcass.
“Unfortunately, the cat must have been dead for quite some time, and couldn’t be identified through visual cues”, Sumbee says.
The location is almost 20km from where Ariun’s collar had last transmitted its position in December 2013, so we know he must have worn it for several days after it stopped communicating.
Some Missing Cats Have Shown Up on Camera
In addition to Ariun’s collar, we’ve also stopped receiving location data last fall from the collars worn by Agnes, Ariunbeleg and Dagina, three female cats in our study. Two other cats, Aztai and Khashaa stopped communicating abruptly in the winter of 2012-2013.
Agnes, Ariunbeleg and Dagina have appeared on research camera photos from Tosonbumba this spring and autumn, still wearing their collars. We don’t know anything definitive about Ariun’s, Aztai’s and Khashaa’s whereabouts though.
We’ll keep looking for all these cats.
How Women Play a Special Role in Increasing Protection for Snow Leopards
Last fall, we helped 11 women from Pakistan’s rural Chitral district attend a three-week certificate course in animal husbandry and livestock vaccination at one of the country’s leading universities.
In March, we held a workshop to help 16 women from two remote villages in northern India develop protocols for the first-ever pilot of our Snow Leopard Enterprises handicraft program in the Indian Himalayas.
From India to Pakistan, and Mongolia to Kyrgyzstan, we’re blazing new trails aimed at engaging more women in snow leopard conservation.
Women Tend to Have More Negative Attitudes Toward Snow Leopards
‘There is a global pattern,’ says Dr. Charu Mishra, Director of Science and Conservation, ‘that in communities living with carnivores, women tend to view the carnivores as more of a threat than men.’ Charu admits that the reasons for this are not entirely clear, but the pattern seems to make sense.
In most of the communities we work with, women run the family, take care of the children, and have important and complementary roles caring for livestock alongside men. It’s reasonable to assume that when livestock are lost, women feel it as a blow to family income and their ability to care for family well-being.
But we’re banking on the opposite being true as well: that by promoting snow leopard conservation among women we can foster peaceful co-existence between people and snow leopards overall. ‘If attitudes can change with women,’ Charu points out, ‘they pass that change on to their children and ultimately affect the whole family.”
In Pakistan, the women health workers are already becoming community leaders. They are working alongside men to treat animals for our livestock vaccination program, which inoculates animals and creates an economic buffer against snow leopard depredation. They are also creating small women’s circles aimed at raising greater appreciation for snow leopards among the community’s wider female population.
In India, the women who met in March to jumpstart their Snow Leopard Enterprises program have now moved on to train the women of their villages on new handicraft skills and patterns. This year we hope to place our first product orders with two women’s groups in India, and provide our first handicraft payments–a major step towards securing their support for snow leopard conservation.
Turning Women Into Conservation Leaders
‘Snow Leopard Enterprises and livestock vaccination are a great foundation,’ says Executive Director Brad Rutherford, ‘they help women and families feel economically secure so they can move forward with conservation.’ And this is just the beginning. Both Charu and Brad envision more training for men and women community leaders across important snow leopard landscapes to help them become even stronger advocates for the cats.
‘These women can speak out for snow leopards in a way that reaches deep into the community,’ adds Brad, ‘they know the challenges other women face and can help find solutions. That’s what we’re most excited about—the opportunity to make lasting and positive change.’
Pakistan training was funded by U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Ambassador’s Fund. Our range-country programs are being supported by a partnership award from Fondation Segré and the Whitley Fund for Nature.