From Hunting Reserve to Wildlife Sanctuary
Post submitted by Matthias Fiechter, Communications Manager of Snow Leopard Trust.
Kyrgyzstan tries a new approach to protect snow leopards and their prey.
Conservationists and the government are teaming up to turn a hunting concession, where ibex were commercially hunted, into a co-managed nature reserve.
The 100 square mile former concession area, Shamshy, in Kyrgyzstan’s northern Tian Shan mountains, is home to ibex, and seasonal populations of argali and wolves. It lies within a large snow leopard landscape, and has the potential to become a key part of the home ranges of several of these endangered cats if its wild ungulate population could be increased.
Shamshy’s ibex used to be hunted commercially — but now, they will be allowed to thrive and recover undisturbed, as hunting will no longer be allowed. This comes as part of a pilot project that aims to turn the former hunting concession into a new type of reserve, co-managed by the government, conservation NGOs, and local people.
The Snow Leopard Trust, a conservation organization based in Seattle WA, is one of the key partners in this new venture.
“Ibex and other wild ungulates are the key prey for the endangered snow leopard. Wherever their numbers are dwindling, for instance if they’re hunted in an unsustainable way, the number of snow leopards drops as well. So we’re trying to protect prey in order to save the predator”, says Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science & Conservation Director.
“With proper protection and management, Shamshy’s ibex population could double or even triple in the next 10 years, so it could become an important feeding ground for the local snow leopard population”, he adds.