The mountain mammals - snow leopard, argali, ibex and maral - have been selected by Kyrgyzstan for their adaptation to climate change. A four-year regional project, which includes Kazakhstan and Tajikistan in addition to Kyrgyzstan, aims to ensure the conservation of these key migratory species, ecosystems and local communities through climate change management and decision-making.
The new initiative was presented and discussed in Bishkek with representatives from the President' Administration, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision of the KR, the Department of Pastures of the Ministry of Agriculture of the KR, international donors, partner organisations and academic circles.
The launch of the project in the Year of Mountain Ecosystem Protection and Climate Sustainability confirms that "the issue of ecology and environmental protection is an issue of peace and security. In Kyrgyzstan the process of climate change is linked to the preservation of glaciers, which form 50% of water resources, so it is important to preserve mountain ecosystems and their biodiversity", said Azamat Temirkulov, head of department in the President's Administration at the opening of the meeting. He expressed support for the project, highlighting its timeliness and promotion of activities on protecting mountain ecosystems and glaciers carried out at the state level.
The Ministry of Nature also expressed its intention to assist in the conservation of migratory mammals. Beksultan Ibraimov, Deputy Minister emphasized the snow leopard as the most vulnerable to the changing climate. "In addition, the predator dies at the hands of humans. Following the example of Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the USA, it is necessary to create balanced conditions in our protected areas and eliminate climatic and anthropogenic threats to animals", said the public servant.
The conservation and adaptation of migratory mammals will be implemented in two protected areas - the Naryn State Nature Reserve and the Khan-Teniri State Nature Park. These protected areas have been selected as they are habitats of key mammal species, have migration corridors and pastures, and also border populated areas where people are interested in cooperating with the project. According to Zairbek Kubanychbekov, Ilbirs PF, over 200 argali, 300 maral, around 400 ibex and 9 snow leopards inhabit in the Naryn State Reserve. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of maral in the protected area. The population of ibex - more than 1,000 and snow leopard - 32 predators prevails in the Khan-Teniri park , argali does not exceed 150 animals.
Askar Davletbakov, head of the Zoology Laboratory at the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, highlighted the important role of mammals in climate change processes. "In addition to transferring seeds and fertilizing the soil, for example, ungulates prevent forest fires and trampling trails," the scientist said.
According to Polina Orlinski from the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Kyrgyzstan adhered to the Convention in 2013), one of the main dangers to mammals during migration is infrastructure: railways, bridges, fences and canals. These objects, often being insurmountable obstacles, close access to food and water for animals, which leads to their deaths. "The Convention's contribution to the project will take the form of an online map showing all the infrastructure encountered along mammal migration routes," she added.
As for the mountain ecosystem, the growing number of livestock is increasing climate risks. According to Martin Hoffman from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), livestock grazing reduces the quality of land and animal fodder yields, and livestock are carriers of diseases that are dangerous for migratory species. "To ensure the climate change sustainability of local communities, it is necessary to offer them alternative livelihoods, to increase their understanding of the risks of a changing climate. This will be achieved by developing different methods, the effectiveness of which will be tested in the project area," said the UNEP representative.
Work with communities will be carried out in 10 Aiyl Aimaks of Jety-Oguz and Ton districts of Issyk-Kul oblast, Naryn district of Naryn oblast. CAMP Alatoo PF, responsible for this component, presented the criteria for selection of rural districts and their brief characteristics. Salamat Jumabaeva, the CAMP Alatoo PF Project Coordinator, indicated about degradation and reduction of productivity of local pastures, conflicts over natural resources, emergencies and natural disasters among the threats to local ecosystem and population. "In our selected Aiyl Aimaks, pastures are located in remote areas bordering protected areas and located on animal migration routes. At the same time, villagers should not graze livestock, hunt or engage in tourism activities along these routes. Local communities have increased their awareness of the difference between use and conservation of resources. At the same time, our Foundation has experience in cooperating with residents willing to conserve and manage resources through the establishment of micro-reserves”, said a representative of the CAMP Alatoo PF.
Participants worked in groups and identified factors preventing the incorporation of climate change messages into regional and national biodiversity conservation planning processes, as well as difficulties in developing local climate-resilient management plans for protected areas and communities. Further work will continue in terms of the challenges identified.
Presentations in the format of National Meetings will be held in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan until the end of summer.
A regional project on the conservation of migratory mammals in a changing climate was led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the International Climate Initiative.
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