Publication Alert – New Article to Bibliography

Title: Diachronic monitoring of snow leopards at Sarychat-Ertash State
Reserve (Kyrgyzstan) through scat genotyping: a pilot study

Authors: Rode, J., Pelletier, A., Fumey, J., Rode, S., Cabanat, A. L.,
Ouvrard, A., Chaix, B., White, B., Harnden, M., Xuan, N. T., Vereshagin,
A., Casane, D.

Abstract:Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are a keystone species of
Central Asia’s high mountain ecosystem. The species is listed as
vulnerable and is elusive, preventing accurate population assessments
that could inform conservation actions. Non-invasive genetic monitoring
conducted by citizen scientists offers avenues to provide key data on
this species that would otherwise be inaccessible. From 2011 to 2015,
OSI-Panthera citizen science expeditions tracked signs of presence of
snow leopards along transects in the main valleys and crests of the
Sarychat-Ertash State Reserve (Kyrgyzstan). Scat samples were genotyped
at seven autosomal microsatellite loci and at a X/Y locus for sex
identification, which allowed estimating a minimum of 11 individuals
present in the reserve from 2011 to 2015. The genetic recapture of 7 of
these individuals enabled diachronic monitoring, providing indications
of individuals’ movements throughout the reserve. We found putative
family relationships between several individuals. Our results
demonstrate the potential of this citizen science program to get a
precise description of a snow leopard population through time.


Snow Leopard Survival Chances Melting Away Along With Glaciers, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard Survival Chances Melting Away Along With Glaciers
Bişkek : Kyrgyzstan |
Nov 18, 2010 By Ljubica Vujadinovic

The 8,400 square kilometers of Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers, which account four per cent of the country’s territory, are now receding at a rate more than three times as fast as in the 1950s, the Institute of Hydro Energy at the National Academy of Sciences in Bishkek stated.

The melting, fuelled by global warming, threatens water supplies as all the main water resources are connected with glaciers. If the trend continues, the effects on wildlife could be as devastating.

In countries that depend on snowmelt for drinking water or agricultural, they also need the snow to come at the right time. The same applies to most wildlife.
Survival of some among world’s rarest animals that found their home in Kyrgyzstan, such as the Marco PoloMarco Polo sheep, the Himalayan brown bear and the endangered snow leopard, are closely linked to the melting glaciers, scientists said.
“These glaciers are part of often unique mountain ecosystems. In some places one can go from a dry desert to lush green pastures in the space of two hours’ drive. Glaciers are driving much of that,” Dr Stephan Harrison, associate professor of quaternary science at the University of Exeter in the UK, was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

The number of the endangered species facing extinction is ever increasing. And the list of those whose survival is directly threatened by global warming is not limited to polar bear and other animals that live in the coldest world’s regions. Indeed, the scientists said the Koala Bear, the Leatherback Turtle, Flamingos and many others are affected as well.

Few days ago a flock of African pink pelicans have mistakenly ended up in Siberia. Flying back to Africa from Kazakhstan, the birds, confused by the exceptionally warm weather, chose to go north instead of south. They were treating the recent changes the same way as the majority of nations in Kyoto – ignoring them.

Melting glaciers threaten wildlife in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is one of the most biodiverse areas of central Asia, but species are in danger from global warming.

Pavol Stracansky Last Modified: 17 Nov 2010 10:39 GMT

Glaciers cover more than four per cent of Kyrgystan, and scientists say the ice is melting [GALLO/GETTY]

Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers are receding at what scientists say is an alarming rate, fuelled by global warming.

And while experts warn of a subsequent catastrophe for energy and water security for Kyrgyzstan and neighbour states downstream reliant on its water flows, devastation to local ecosystems and the effects on plant and wildlife could be just as severe.

“Animals and vegetation will not be unaffected and the risks for some species will be great,” Ilia Domashov, deputy head of the BIOM Environmental NGO in Bishkek, said.

More than four percent – 8,400 square kilometres – of Kyrgyzstan’s territory consists of glaciers.

A natural process of water release from summer melting of the glaciers, which freeze again during the winter, feeds many of the country’s rivers and lakes.

Up to 90 per cent of water in Kyrgyzstan rivers comes from glaciers, local experts claim.

This flow of water is not just important to energy needs and farming, it also feeds interconnected ecosystems providing habitats for some of the world’s most diverse flora and fauna.

Kyrgyzstan’s biodiversity is among the greatest in the region and stretches through a variety of climatic habitats, ranging from glaciers to subtropical and temperate ecosystems.

Although it only covers 0.1 per cent of the world’s landmass, Kyrgyzstan is home to one percent of its species, according to reports submitted by the government to UN bodies.

A number of species are found only in Kyrgyzstan with endemic species and subspecies including over 200 plant species, more than 3,000 invertebrate species and 17 vertebrate species, as well as a further 47 sub-endemic vertebrates.

The country is home to some of the world’s rarest animals, such as the Marco Polo sheep, the Himalayan brown bear and the Siberian ibex, as well as the endangered snow leopard, whose habitat is closely linked to the glaciers.

The glaciers are a driving force behind these “unique” ecosystems in the region, scientists say.

“These glaciers are part of often unique mountain ecosystems. In some places one can go from a dry desert to lush green pastures in the space of two hours’ drive. Glaciers are driving much of that,” Dr Stephan Harrison, associate professor of quaternary science at the University of Exeter in the UK, said.

But scientists in Kyrgyzstan and at international climate monitoring bodies say that the glaciers have receded by as much as 35 per cent in the 20th century and the melting is becoming more rapid.

According to the Institute of Hydro Energy at the National Academy of Sciences in Bishkek the glaciers are now receding at a rate more than three times as in the 1950s.

Some groups say they have observed glaciers shrinking by 50 metres a year.

Local experts say glaciers have their own ecosystems.

Their melting water flows into the soil which affects vegetation which acts as food for animals at lower altitudes, some of which are prey for other animals and so on.

“Certain animals are deeply connected to the glaciers, such as the snow leopard, and they will be affected by the rapid melting. What will happen is that in the short term the level of underground water will rise but in the long term it will actually fall as glaciers disappear and this will have an impact on ecological systems around rivers,” BIOM’s Domashov said.

There are other serious threats to ecosystems from the process. As glaciers melt large deposits of sediment are deposited in valleys below.

This affects the local land and rivers and their existing ecosystems.

Glacial melting can also lead to huge floods as natural dams formed by the ice burst, sending lethal torrents down mountains and destroying entire forests.

There have also been warnings from local experts that the melting of the glaciers, combined with a predicted rise in temperatures, will lead to an increase in desertification.

The BIOM group told IPS studies it had been involved in predicted that climate change behind glacial melting could see a shifting of entire ecological belts with the altitudes of deserts, steppes, meadowlands and mountain regions shifting between 100 and 400 metres.

One of the country’s most prominent areas of biodiversity is the Issyk-Kul Lake.

At an altitude of 1,600 metres in the Tien-Shan mountains in the north of Kyrgyzstan it is the world’s second largest high mountain lake.

It has no water outlets and the rivers which flow into it are fed primarily by glacial waters.

It has over 20 species of fish in the lake alone.

A host of species live in the diverse landscapes around the lake which range from arid semi-deserts to the Tien-Shan mountain range – which is home to an estimated over 4,000 different native plant species.

The lake itself is also an important stop for migrating birds and as many as 80,000 water birds gather around it for wintering.

But its ecosystem could also be put in jeopardy by glacial melting.

Water level changes in the lake recorded in the last decade have been put down to melting glaciers.

Both falling and rising lake levels have been reported and some plant species have been destroyed by the changes to the water level.

In other cases the lake has been polluted as shoreside buildings were flooded and then toxins washed back into the lake.

In other areas locals say that they are already seeing the effects of glacial melting on the environment.

Farmers say rivers once fed by glaciers have begun to dry up and plants are dying out from lack of water in some areas.

Shepherds have told local media that they can no longer see some glaciers on mountains.

In Kyrgyzstan’s submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, published last year, it was predicted that the country’s glaciated area would recede by up to 95 per cent over the next century.

“Some of the glaciers will have gone by the end of our lifetimes. We must accept a degree of global warming now whatever we do because of all the CO2 in the atmosphere. All we can do is hope that it can be limited,” Dr Harrison said.

This article first appeared on the Inter Press Service News Agency.

Activists rescue deposed Kyrgyz dictator’s starved leopards

Posted on Earth Times : Fri, 28 May 2010 10:48:55 GMT

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – Activists have rescued 23 starving wild animals, including bears and wolves, from a private menagerie belonging to deposed Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, but said Friday they arrived too late to save a couple of snow leopards.

The animals, neglected since Bakiyev’s ouster early last month, were trucked from Bakiyev’s former luxury compound at Jalal-Abad in the south of Kyrgyzstan to a nature-protection site at Karakol, said Leif Miller, head of German nature group NABU.

Among the survivors was one snow leopard, but two were already dead when the NABU staff arrived. There are estimated to be only 350 snow leopards left in the wild in Kyrgyzstan. Birds of prey in the collection included two black kites and an eagle.

“The animals don’t seem to have been fed since he was overthrown,” said Miller from NABU’s office in Berlin. Bakiyev has fled to Belarus.

Bakiyev was not the only regional leader with a menagerie: Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov reportedly owns lions and rare Siberian tigers.,activists-rescue-deposed-kyrgyz-dictators-starved-leopards.html

KYRGYZSTAN: By 2050, only 2% of glaciers may remain and temperatures could increase by 4-6 degrees centigrade by the end of the century

KYRGYZSTAN: Fewer glaciers = more deserts

BISHKEK, 16 November 2009 (IRIN) – Rapidly melting glaciers in mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan over the next few decades could lead to increased desertification and land degradation, according to experts.

By the end of the century, we could see temperatures rising 4-6 degrees centigrade, and by 2050 the number of glaciers could fall from 8,200 to 142, Zukhra Abaikhanova, environment programme adviser with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Kyrgyzstan, told IRIN. The figures are also contained in Kyrgyzstan‘s submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“In the last few decades, we have witnessed the melting of our glaciers. Many have disappeared… The result could be desertification and soil degradation,” she said.

According to Bakyta Mamytova, a specialist in mountain soil biology at the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, such a temperature rise, assuming precipitation remains at its current level, would lead to increasing desertification.

The result would be soil erosion which “could affect living standards, the economy and the environment. We are experiencing this today already,” Mamytova said.

Deputy Director of the State Agency for the Preservation of the Environment and Forestry Aitkul Burkhanov said some of the land currently used in Central Asia for grazing and growing crops may not be fit for purpose in a few decades.

He said glacier melt would reduce the amount of water available for drinking and irrigation.

Agricultural zoning

Ninety percent of all water in the country is used for irrigation, said UNDP’s Abaikhanova. We need to reconsider “agricultural zoning” to ensure food security; and more efficient use of water at household and state level needs to be implemented, she said.

On “agricultural zoning” (moving crops to other areas or introducing new ones), Abaikhanova said work on that front was just beginning. “There will be a pilot project in the northern province of Chui. The main aim is to assess the prospects of agricultural adaption in the identified area, taking into consideration climate, temperature and humidity changes… We need to identify how the soil will change, what type of adaption measures will be needed in crop production, animal husbandry and preserving pasturelands in Kyrgyzstan.” A June 2009 World Bank report entitled Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia warned that climate change’s impact in the Europe and Central Asia Region could be exacerbated by post-Soviet era environmental mismanagement and poor infrastructure.

Marianne Fay, the author of the report, said: “Increases in temperature are affecting hydrology, with a rapid melting of the region’s glaciers and a decrease in winter snows. Many countries are already suffering from winter floods and summer droughts – with both southeastern Europe and Central Asia at risk of severe water shortages. Summer heat waves are expected to claim more lives than will be saved by warmer winters.”

A joint report, entitled Global Glacier Changes: facts and figures, by the UN Environment Programme and the World Glacier Monitoring Service released on 1 September 2008 said mountain ranges in Central Asia function as water towers for millions of people. “Glacier runoff thereby is an important freshwater resource in arid regions as well as during the dry seasons in monsoonal affected regions,” the report said, adding that during the 20th century, the glacier area is estimated to have decreased by 25-35 percent in the Tien Shan area of Kyrgyzstan.


Population of snow leopards rises in Kyrgyzstan

05/06-2009 07:44, Bishkek – News Agency “”, By Artem PETROV

Population of snow leopards rises on the territory of Sarychat-Ertash nature reserve, Kyrgyzstan, National Academy of Science informed the news agency “”.


There are reportedly seven animals listed in Kyrgyz Red Data Book of endangered species, two of them are leopardesses with cubs. “Growth of snow leopard population should continue up to restoration of it initial number on the territory- 17-20 animals,” the National Academy of Science said.


Note from the news agency “”. Sarychat-Ertash nature reserve is situated at junction of Internal and Central Tien Shan, in valleys of Sarychat, Ertash, Uchkul rivers. Its total area is 135 thousand hectares.





Commercial Hunting Endangers Rare Central Asian Sheep Species: Wildlife researchers say Marco Polo sheep under threat of extinction

Published 2008-12-12
Edited by Rich Bowden

Wildlife researchers are concerned a rare sub-species of Central Asian sheep known as Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii) is under threat of extinction because of widespread commercial hunting in Central Asian states such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Found in the Pamir Mountains, on the border region of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, and named after the famed traveler Marco Polo who encountered them on his journeys in the region, experts estimate that only a fraction of the original number of the species remain. The species’ decline can be linked to regional political and economic factors and the activities of several commercial hunting businesses, they say.

The hunting operators have used the Marco Polo sheep as a lucrative commercial opportunity and have in the process, driven the sheep to the edge of extinction. According to George Schaller, vice president of the Science and Exploration Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the species can now be numbered to little more than 10,000.

The population of Marco Polo sheep has declined rapidly in Central Asia since 1980 due to political disturbances and economical factors in the region. This includes a long, unresolved war in Afghanistan which acts as an important habitat for these species.

However trophy hunters originating mostly from western Europe and North America, have shown great interest in signing up for Marco Polo sheep hunting adventures, ignoring the species’ endangered status.

Rick Herscher, owner and operator of Alaska Hunting Safaris in Anchorage, AK, describes hunting for the Marco Polo sheep as an adventure and joyful experience. The company runs hunts in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan for a fee of US$35,000 and Herscher said in a telephone conversation that authorities in Central Asian states can be notoriously corrupt where the issuing of a license for hunting can be a gold mine.

It is alleged that the corruption of officials in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, along with the increasing demand of trophy hunters around the world, is the main factor in the rapid development of the commercial hunting of the iconic sheep. Despite the fact that Marco Polo sheep have been officially recognized by the Agency of the Environment Protection of Kyrgyzstan as an endangered species, the hunting of the sheep continues to be legal in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Herscher said that with limited hunting permits available, planning on the safaris begins one year prior to the actual hunt. The official permit fee for hunting on Marco Polo sheep in Kyrgyzstan‘s Environment Government Agency is $6.80 per sheep and hunters take the opportunity to acquire them in the time available.

Unfortunately the plight of the Marco Polo sheep serves only to remind how we as a human society need to understand better how important the issue of conserving and protecting endangered species such as the Marco Polo sheep is for the future of our planet. Even in the 21st century it appears we are still unable to protect our endangered fauna for the benefit of future generations. History teaches us that what we lose will not return and that acting now is our only chance for preservation.

The example of the Marco Polo sheep is salient as we know that the world will lose this unique species if nothing is done to prevent irresponsible hunting in the abovementioned Central Asian states. Wealthy trophy hunters from around the globe, who apparently know that this species is under threat of extinction, appear to suffer no remorse.