Posted on Category:Wild Animal

Honey Creation Improves Snow Panther Protection in Kyrgyzstan

“I was only 9 years old when I first saw a snow leopard with my father. It was a forest ranger who took issue animals found in the mountains to the veterinarian,” says Asanbek Sasukilov, 62, a beekeeper and shepherd. “I sat down by the cage. Suddenly the snow leopard started roaring and I ran away.”

For Sasukilov, snow leopards (Panthera uncia) have always been a part of his life. The same applies to those from other communities living around the Ala-Too Mountains in northern Kyrgyzstan. The difference is that they are now participating in big cat conservation programs led by the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) and the Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan (SLFK), which promote beekeeping, agroecology and ecotourism as alternative livelihoods to animal husbandry to avoid conflicts.with wildlife like the rare big cats.

Here, the locals have always seen snow leopards on the tops of the mountains while raising cows or sheep. Fat cats are also part of popular stories such as farmer Beisheukaz Balasy’s memory of a snow leopard shot for a Movie in Soviet times.

Sasukilov and Balasy now keep bees in Shamshy, a village of 1,000 inhabitants located a 90-minute drive from the capital Bishkek. Outside the city, the gray cityscape disappears and merges with the sapphire sky and the snow-capped mountains. Flocks of sheep, cows and horses graze on the roads of this border area, located a few kilometers from Kazakhstan and further from China, hidden behind high mountains.

Here, at the northern end of the Kyrgyz snow leopard’s habitat, nearly 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) of habitat is shared with other wild animals such as ibex, lynxes, wild boars, wolves and jackals. It is part of the Shamshy Nature Reserve, an area managed by the Kyrgyz government, local communities and the two Snow Leopard NGOs. Although once a hot spot for trophy hunters, Shamshy is now a sanctuary for snow leopards, where stakeholders manage projects such as research, community education, ecotourism and training and compensation for game wardens.

Do you hear them roaring?

Kyrgyzstan is the fourth most mountainous country in the world, located at an average altitude of 2,989 meters (9,805 feet), with an estimated snow leopard population of 300 to 400 individuals living on the highest peaks. The species is distributed in 12 Asian countries, from India to Kazakhstan, TAJIKISTAN and Mongolia, and faces many of the same risks as other big cats around the world, its Population being classified as critically endangered and declining on the IUCN Red List.

“The main perils for snow leopards are poaching, mining, roads, hunting and competition with livestock. All these threats are amplified by climate change,” Koustubh Sharma, director of science and conservation at SLT, said in an interview with Mongabay. “Indeed, the climate emergency has a double impact: snow leopards approach villages to find food where they could strike livestock. On the other hand, shepherds are pushed high into the mountains [to find better pastures for their animals], closer to their ecosystem.”

To assess and monitor snow leopard populations, the global snow leopard and ecosystem protection program (GSLEP), in collaboration with their governments and more than 50 organizations, coordinates efforts in all countries where the big cat lives.

“Although some Kyrgyz regions are now well studied and the populations are known, there are still many gaps,” explains Bastien Chaix, scientific educator for OSI-Panthera, who has been studying snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan since 2013. “Since reliable population studies using camera traps and genetic analysis are relatively new, it is difficult to have a clear trend. In fact, the only methods for estimating populations 20 to 30 years ago consisted of a study of the signs of presence (traces, traces of urine, scraping, feces, etc.).), which gave an idea of the distribution, but not of the exact density, as is possible with modern techniques.”

According to Chaix, the heart of a long-term conservation strategy is based on the participation of local communities: “The mutually beneficial integration of conservation into the local economy is the best way to ensure sustainability and gradually eliminate potential conflicts,” he said. “By providing additional income to local communities, they can value wildlife and reduce their economic dependence on companion animals and the problems of coexistence with wildlife.”

A sweet joint venture

Thus, Sasukilov and his fellow beekeepers are an integral part of the conservation programs implemented by the SLT in five Kyrgyz communities. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he worked as a supplier of gas balloons. After that, he returned to the family farms of animal husbandry and beekeeping. “My mother took care of the bees until she died at 83,” he says. “I am still his and my father’s legacy.”

Now Sasukilov is one of Shamshy’s two main beekeepers: when he started, he had 80 hives, but now he has only 35, having shared the rest with his two students. All are trained and supported by the SLT program, which provides 50 hives in each village, where each farmer produces about 4 to 5 kilograms (9 to 11 pounds) of honey per hive.

“I am aware that I take care of nature as much as possible,” says Sasukilov. “I hope that more people from the village will get involved as beekeepers. I know that we cannot completely eliminate livestock, they are important. I have 35 cows in my barn that I sell for meat.”

In the morning, he takes care of the bees who are at the corner of his organic vegetable garden among the apple trees. He wears the typical Kyrgyz Ak-Kalpak, a white felt hat and high boots to walk to the apiary in the deep snow.

One by one, he checks the hives with a stethoscope and listens to see if they are in good condition. Due to his many years of experience and recent training, he does not open the boxes to protect pollinators from near-zero temperatures.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *