The Snow Leopard Trust is partnering with the Kyrgyz government to better train and recognize law enforcement officials, protected area rangers and local community members in snow leopard habitat for their fight against poachers.
Illegal hunting continues to be a threat to snow leopards and their prey species in large parts of Central Asia. Through conservation agreements with communities the Trust has managed to minimize hunting 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, and they often lack the equipment and social standing to close cases and bring culprits to justice.
In a move to empower 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 launched the Citizen Ranger Wildlife Protection Program in 2014.
Under this program, park rangers in all of Kyrgyzstan’s Protected Areas receive customized law enforcement training designed and led by INTERPOL wildlife crime experts, and crucial equipment such as crime scene investigation kits or binoculars.
In an annual award ceremony, rangers and local community members who stop and apprehend poachers are publicly honored and financially rewarded for their service to wildlife.
The program empowers rangers and citizens to step up against poachers and raises their profile as defenders of the natural heritage. It also creates a public forum where such cases are discussed. That in turn makes it much harder for poachers to wield their influence and cover up their crimes.
The Citizen Ranger Wildlife Protection Program was made possible by a grant from the UK government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund.
Facts & Figures
- Program is active in all 22 State Nature Reserves and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan
- More than a dozen rangers and citizens have already received awards for bringing poachers to justice