Bishkek, December 1, 2012 – On December 1-3, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic together with the World Bank and other partners is hosting an international forum of countries home to the endangered snow leopard, where experts engaged in snow leopard ecosystem conservation plan to consolidate a program of global action to recover and sustain the vanishing species and its high-mountain landscapes.
This workshop is an important step in laying the groundwork for the International Forum on Snow Leopard Conservation, which, at the initiative of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, is planned to take place in Bishkek in 2013. Officials from the 12 snow leopard countries as well as representatives of the Snow Leopard Network, Snow Leopard Trust, NABU, CITES, CMS, USAID, UNDP, International Business Council, ADB, UNDP, USAID, WWF, and the World Bank are participating in the December 1-3 workshop.
As the Kyrgyz Vice Prime Minister Tayirbek Sarpashev noted in his opening remarks, the event contributes to the prevention of the snow leopard’s extinction. “The Kyrgyz Republic has developed its National Snow Leopard Protection Strategy for the next ten years. Our hope is that the fruitful cooperation between the partner countries, donors and private sector will result in successful launch of the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Program next year in Bishkek,” said Tayirbek Sarpashev.
Conservation experts developed a Global Snow Leopard Survival Strategy In 2003, based on the scientific data available then. The Government of the Kyrgyz Republic is leading today’s renewed efforts to seek the latest scientific knowledge, experience, and lessons from similar conservation initiatives. One of those is the Global Tiger Initiative, housed at the World Bank, an alliance of tiger range countries that has engaged top political leaders and global conservation experts since 2008 in an international effort to save wild tigers from extinction. The Global Tiger Initiative is closely advising the governments and other organizations on consolidating each of the snow leopard countries’ national action plans to create an aligned global program.
Drawing on the work to date, officials plan to expand on the strategy developed in 2003 and articulate for policy makers the social, economic, and long-term benefits that snow leopard conservation will bring. In hopes of building a systematic and sustainable global program to protect snow leopards, they will develop a framework to engage with local communities, the business community, and civil society in snow leopard conservation. As with the Global Tiger Initiative, the stakeholders look to create a scientific monitoring mechanism to measure progress in the months and years to come.
“I am particularly excited about this workshop because of its potential for creating synergies between the conservation of tigers and snow leopards,” said Keshav Varma, the World Bank’s Program Director for the Global Tiger Initiative. “It is striking that five of the 12 snow leopard range countries are also tiger range countries. And many of the threats are broadly the same: habitat degradation, depletion of prey, poaching and illegal wildlife trade, human-wildlife conflict, insufficient human and financial capacity for effective conservation action, and infrastructure and extractive industries impinging on the large landscapes both tigers and snow leopards require. While these threats differ immensely in the details, and from country to country, I believe good practices in snow leopard conservation can inform tiger conservation, and vice versa,”
Known throughout the world for its beautiful fur and elusive behavior, the endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is found in the rugged mountains of Central Asia at elevations of 3,000 to over 5,000 m (10,000 – 17,000 feet). Snow leopards are adapted to the cold, barren landscape of their high-altitude homes, but human threats have created an uncertain future for the cats. Despite a range of over 2 million km2, it is estimated that only between 4,000 and 6,500 snow leopards remain in the wild. Much of the snow leopard’s range falls along international borders, some of which are disputed or politically sensitive. Major threats to snow leopards include habitat degradation, loss of wild prey due to competition for forage with growing numbers of domestic livestock, poaching for skins and other parts for the illegal wildlife trade, and mining and other development activities.
Conservation efforts in these high-altitude ecosystems are also closely linked to climate change mitigation and adaptation, which are important priorities for Asian countries and the international community. The snow leopard range countries are: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.