Kyrgyzstan’s snow leopards get a bigger, safer home

A snow leopard in Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve

Following work carried out by 2005 Whitley Gold Award winner, Charu Mishra and colleagues at the Snow Leopard Trust, Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister, Jantoro Satybaldiev, has signed a decree expanding the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve by 150 square kilometers. The newly expanded reserve will ensure greater protection of Kyrgyzstan’s most important snow leopard habitat against mining and hunting activities.

Located in central Tien-Shan, the newly expanded reserve covers 149,117.9 hectares and will ensure greater protection of snow leopards and their prey against the threat of mining operations and hunting interest groups.

As the country’s largest protected area, the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve is crucial to the long-term survival of snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan. During recent years, mining and hunting activities have imposed an increasing threat on snow leopards and their prey, and with the boarders of the park somewhat undefined, often encroach on the reserve.

Recent concerns that geological explorations were being initiated inside the reserve’s buffer zone were bought to the attention of Kyrgyz Parliament by a coalition of NGOs, including the Snow Leopard Trust. As a result of their efforts, The Kyrgyz Parliament have revoked all previously issued mining exploration licenses inside the park and approved a new, larger protected area with officially established borders in February 2013 – a huge success for snow leopard conservation.