Protecting Snow Leopard and Goitered Gazelle, Iconic Species of Central Asia

Author: Milica Miskovic, IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECARO).

Central Asia holds some of the world’s largest intact grassland ecosystems as well as mountain areas. To help preserve them and facilitate their delivery of long-term environmental and social benefits, SOS Central Asia granting mechanism was set up by IUCN Save Our Species and IUCN ECARO to support the implementation of the CMS’ Central Asian Mammals Initiative, focusing on Goitered Gazelles and Snow Leopards. Population numbers of these species are decreasing and both are listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.  Since 2019 seven organizations received the grants across Central Asia. The results of their work are now being evaluated, while preliminary findings are already encouraging.  

Experts from Ecobioproject demonstrated that the population density of Goitered Gazelles in the migration corridor between two protected areas (eco-corridor) Altyn-Emel and Ile-Balhash in Kazakhstan has doubled, increasing from 0.24 to 0.85 individuals per 1000 ha, since measures were taken to enhance protection from poaching and to facilitate access to drinking places in the area.

In South-East of Kazakhstan, Marwell Wildlife conducted aerial surveys of 10,000 km2 to determine the presence of Goitered Gazelles outside of protected areas, the results are expected to inform actions for the preservation of this species and its key habitats.

An assessment of the snow leopard population in the mountains around Almaty by Wildlife Without Borders and the Institute of Zoology of Kazakhstan showed that an estimated number of 20 leopards live around the city, which is substantial, considering that the country harbours only around 130-150 animals. Increased number of sightings in the mountains surrounding the city was reported at the time of pandemic-related restrictions on human activities, when fewer people went to the mountains for recreation purposes. Additionally, a breeding group of 10 snow leopards was detected in Altyn-Emel National Park in Kazakhstan, which is very encouraging considering the lack of sightings in this area in the last 50 years. 

SOS Central Asia  grantees engaged many stakeholders, both at local and international levels. They contributed to building capacity on the ground, working closely with local communities and the youth, helped educate and raise awareness on the importance of wildlife conservation. The use of traditional knowledge was an important component of these projects, which is invaluable in understanding the local perceptions of wildlife and for developing strategies to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.

SOS Central Asia 2019 – 2022 grantees were: Public Fund “Ecobioproject”, Snow Leopard Trust, Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan, Regional Association of environmental NGOs of Western Kazakhstan “Tabigi Orta”, Wildlife Without Borders, Marwell Wildlife and Snow Leopard Conservancy. Their projects are at the closing phases and should be finalised by summer 2022.

Links

IUCN Save Our Species - SOS Central Asia initiative https://iucnsos.org/initiative/sos-central-asia/

IUCN Eastern Europe and Central Asia www.iucn.org/ecaro

Last updated on 21 April 2022