Ten wildlife rangers from various protected areas and provinces of Kyrgyzstan were recognized and rewarded for outstanding service at the annual Ranger Rewards Ceremony in Bishkek on World Wildlife Day. The total reward sum was 115,000 Kyrgyz Som (ca. 1,650 US$).
The ten honored rangers had successfully apprehended and brought to justice poachers or illegal hunters in one of the country’s protected areas. It is illegal to bring guns into protected areas, and all hunting – of snow leopards, ibex, argali, wolves and any other species – is banned within those reserves.
Among the rangers rewarded for their work this year were two members of a public association called “Future of Sary-Chelek”, Jakybaliev Satar (who is also the deputy head of the local village council) and Kabylov Nurjigit.
The association “Future of Sary-Chelek” was created by young people from various villages surrounding the Sary-Chelek Biosphere reserve with the purpose to help to official reserve rangers to protect the local environment.
With permission from the reserve office, Jakybaliev and Kabylov had gone on a patrol in the reserve in June 2018 when they came across a poacher with two guns. They confiscated the guns from him, informed the relevant Reserve staff about the case and passed the guns on to the Reserve office, which the took the case forward. The poacher was eventually fined – and the two brave young men were now rewarded for their outstanding service to wildlife.
The ceremony was attended by the Director of Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan, Kuban Jumabai uulu, Mr. Ekmat Baibakpaev, the Chairman of the Kyrgyz Parliament Council on transition to Green Economy and Mr. Ryspekov Arsen, the Deputy Director of the State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry Agency, as well as by representatives of partners including UNDP and RSK Bank.
The rewards are part of a larger program to strengthen prevention and prosecution of poaching and illegal wildlife trade in the Kyrgyz Republic. The initiative, entitled Citizen Ranger Wildlife Protection Program, was initially funded through an Illegal Wildlife Trade prevention grant from the British government, and has been run as a partnership between the State Agency of Environment Protection and Forestry of the Kyrgyz Republic, Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan and Snow Leopard Trust, with support from WFN Partnership Funding by Fondation Segré (managed by the Whitley Fund for Nature), and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.
The program includes law enforcement training for rangers and rewards for those who successfully apprehend poachers. Through an initial investment into an interest-bearing trust fund, the rewards are funded in perpetuity, even as the initial grant has run out.
“Wildlife rangers and other local communities in and around protected areas are the first and best line of defense for wildlife”, says Charu Mishra, Science & Conservation Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, a partner on the rewards program “They do outstanding work under difficult circumstances to protect the natural heritage of their country. We’re committed to helping them do that as well as possible.”