Press Release, July 16, 2014
Illegal hunting continues to be a threat to snow leopards and their equally endangered prey species in large parts of Central Asia. Through conservation agreements with communities the Trust has managed to minimize hunting instances by locals in many important snow leopard habitats.
However, many of the poachers, in countries like Kyrgyzstan, are resourceful businessmen, political figures or other influential outsiders, who aren’t part of these conservation agreements and are difficult for local people, and even park rangers to deal with.
“Despite their limited resources, park rangers in protected areas as well as our partner communities work hard to stop these outside poachers – but their efforts too often go unrecognized”, says Charu Mishra, the Trust’s Science and Conservation Director.
In a move to inspire and better appreciate the work of official rangers, and to encourage local people to collaborate with rangers to reduce illegal hunting, the Snow Leopard Trust and the Kyrgyz government have now launched the Citizen Ranger Wildlife Protection Program.
It honors and financially rewards rangers and local community members who successfully apprehend poachers, and whose actions result in arrest or official fines being imposed on poachers. Over time, we also hope to better equip rangers, and liaise with law enforcement agencies to impart more training.
First Awards Were Handed Out
Last month, Toktosun uulu Urmat, a ranger in Sarychat-Ertash nature reserve, and Asanakunov Akil, a community member, jointly received the first award and citation under this initiative. They had apprehended hunters in Sarychat-Ertash; confiscated their guns and reported them to the authorities. They both received an official certificate and a shared cash bonus of 10,000 Kyrgyz soms.
“The two awardees were very proud and happy to see their work recognized in this way”, says Kuban.
In June, the Snow Leopard Trust signed a three-way Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the area of wildlife conservation with the Government of Kyrgyz Republic and Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan (our Kyrgyz NGO partner Kyrgyzstan). This MoU will be active for 10 years and will strengthen our relationship with the Forestry Agency and other state organizations towards reaching our shared conservation goals.
The Citizen Ranger Wildlife Protection Program was launched during an international snow leopard conservation workshop within the Global Snow Leopard Forum framework. A cross-section of the Kyrgyz Government, official delegates from 10 of the 12 snow leopard range countries, and a host of international organisations such as UNDP, GEF, USAID, Interpol, WWF, and snow leopard conservation organizations were present.
A perfect setting to celebrate conservation champions, says Charu Mishra: “Although it involves a cash reward, recognizing the rangers’ and community members’ effort is an even more important aspect of the program. This follow-up workshop to the Global Snow Leopard Forum was a fitting occasion to announce our partnership with the Government and for the hardworking rangers to be felicitated. People present just loved the idea and the initiative. It was really gratifying to receive the feedback, and for us, a fantastic bonus over and above a highly productive workshop.
This significant progress for snow leopards, a result of our long-term work in the Kyrgyz Republic, is made possible through the Partnership Funding by Fondation Segré, managed by Whitley Fund for Nature, as well as the support and guidance of the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.