Snow leopard populations in Kyrgyzstan shrinking

SLN Member Alexander Vereschagin advocates a local and global approach to snow leopard conservation.

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency

Khabar — Snow leopard populations continue to shrink, in the last decade alone its numbers falling by 40 percent in some countries.

Kyrgyz scientists cite extermination by humans as one of the reasons behind the statistics.

20 years ago Kyrgyzstan had the largest snow leopard habitat when the mountains of the Tien Shan became probably the best shelter for the animals.

A secluded den in the hard-to-reach highlands helped the snow leopards to survive.

Alexander Vereschagin, research fellow of Sarychat-Ertash reserve says 2.5 or 3 thousand snow leopards lived there.

They are now doing research not only in the reserve, but also in the neighbouring areas.

They think even fewer snow leopards remain.

The snow leopard, as a rare species of animals, was entered in the Soviet Red Book and is now listed in the Kyrgyz Red Book, although even legislated protection does not prove very useful, scientists say.

Despite extermination of the animals for their valuable fur stopped a long time ago, wild sheep and mountain goats – snow leopards’ main food, are still being killed.

Alexander Vereschagin says people need not only to protect them, but also to think globally.

The first thing is that snow leopards should have food; it must be protected by both the reserve security and the surrounding communities.

Simply prosecuting poachers will not give results.

The snow leopard’s natural habitat is declared a preserved area in Kyrgyzstan and the next steps towards securing better control will protect other animals which snow leopards eat.

According to Kyrgyz scientists, this requires tougher control over various firms who bring hunter-tourists to the reserve.

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