Kyrgyzstan hosted Steering Committee Meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program

October 24, 2022

Every year, on October 23, we celebrate International Snow Leopard Day. Nine years ago, 12 snow leopard range countries – Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan committed to ensuring the well-being of the snow leopard and signed the Bishkek Declaration on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard. On this day, we draw the public's attention to the importance of preserving the snow leopard as a symbol of the cultural and natural heritage of the High Asia mountains.

On October 20-21, Bishkek hosted the Steering Committee Meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) to review the conservation efforts being taken by range countries and identify future priority actions to conserve High Asia’s ecosystems and enhance the welfare of people living there. The event provided an opportunity to discuss innovative financing of conservation through development activities, climate adaptation actions, community-based conservation, and sustainable livelihoods.

The meeting brought together officials from environmental ministries and agencies, heads and representatives of diplomatic missions, international organizations, conservation nonprofits, and programs from the snow leopard range countries.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Dinara Kutmanova, Minister of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic, noted that "the threat of extinction of the snow leopard should become an object of attention of the international community, and the conservation of the species should become a shared responsibility.” She stressed "the need for joint collective action" and expressed "commitment to the conservation and protection of the snow leopard and its ecosystems, as we are aware of its role in the conservation of numerous animal species in our mountainous landscape.” Ms. Dinara Kutmanova concluded her speech by calling on “international organizations and other stakeholders to joint active cooperation” and said: "We have all talked about the importance of moving from a declaration to action. Result-oriented leadership should be the key principle. Today, discussing the fate of the snow leopard, we are in fact touching on issues vital to the entire planet, to all of humanity, and to its future. Civilization can develop sustainably only on the principles of a responsible attitude towards nature. I am convinced that by working together, we can expand ties, strengthen cooperation and contribute to the development of additional opportunities to preserve our priceless natural heritage for future generations.”

To date, the snow leopard is under threat of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, poaching, illicit trafficking, and human-wildlife conflict. In this regard, one of the most important priorities of UNDP in preserving biodiversity is to enhance national capacities for the snow leopard conservation and associated key species, reinforce anti-poaching measures, implement community engagement programs, and undertake awareness-raising and knowledge-management activities in partnership with local, national, and regional partners. Therefore, this meeting is of key importance for the harmonization and strengthening of further joint conservation actions.

Ms. Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, in her speech emphasized the importance of snow leopard conservation, and noted that “UNDP views snow leopard conservation as more than protecting the species: it manages our global heritage; manages landscapes; and fosters ecosystem health as the very foundation for inclusive and sustainable development. The snow leopard is a powerful indicator of the health of the mountainous ecosystems in terms of climate change and biodiversity. Its presence symbolizes ecosystem services such as fresh water and carbon sequestration that benefit human populations of billions living downstream”.  Ms. Louise Chamberlain also stressed that “UNDP currently supports the range countries in mobilizing financial resources and in pulling international, national and local expertise together to catalyze changes, necessary for safeguarding the snow leopard and its habitat, building directly on our existing and past support in 11 out of the 12 range countries and our presence in all the range countries. UNDP has a current ongoing portfolio of at least 40 projects with a total combined budget of more than US$ 130 million, implemented together with national governments.”

The meeting participants shared their experiences and updates about the in-country efforts for conserving snow leopards and their ecosystems. They discussed the extent of linear Infrastructure and mitigating its impacts across snow leopard habitats, climate risks and resilience measures, transboundary cooperation, and reviewed updates on the Population Assessment of the World’s Snow leopards (PAWS) initiative.

Mr. Azamat Temirkulov, Head of the Reforms Monitoring and Analysis Department of the Kyrgyz Republic President Administration, said: “I am convinced that the Final Resolution of the meeting will allow the states to coordinate efforts, attract significant financial, organizational, and technical resources, establish effective scientific cooperation and serve for the benefit of the conservation of these rare wild animals and their habitats. The adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets us the task of adhering to the three dimensions of sustainable development - social, economic, and environmental. In this context, the ongoing efforts of the Kyrgyz side are in tune with the global call and our commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” At the end of his statement, he emphasized their “interest in an increasing international cooperation to continue the search for workable solutions to pressing global problems” and added that “this should be the outcome of the GSLEP Steering Committee.”

As a result of the Steering Committee meeting, the range countries adopted a resolution to take significant steps for further inclusive economic development, counteracting illegal wildlife trade, improving the exchange of best practices in conservation, strengthening inter-governmental cooperation, and close interaction amongst multiple stakeholders.



About UNDP/GEF project

Strengthening national capacities for snow leopard conservation is one of the key components of the UNDP/GEF project "Conservation of globally important biodiversity and associated land and forest resources of Western Tian Shan mountain ecosystems to support sustainable livelihoods" which is now being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The project enhanced the enforcement capacities of environmental inspectors, border guards, and customs officers on wildlife protection aimed at the identification and prosecution of wildlife crime and controlling trade in snow leopards and other illegal wildlife goods. UNDP supported the construction of a special enclosure for service dogs of the State Customs Service and donated necessary equipment for training service dogs to counteract the illegal transportation of wild animals and implement CITES Convention effectively.

As part of the project, the Western Tian Shan protected areas staff and anti-poaching community patrols trained on snow leopard and prey monitoring. UNDP donated more than 50 camera traps to Western Tian Shan Alatai and Kan-Achuu Protected Areas and trained their staff on how to set up and maintain them. Over the past few years, the camera traps captured rare images of the snow leopard and its prey species and provided data on species location and population sizes. Also, UNDP supported the joint development and adaptation of the Population Assessment of the Snow Leopards in Kyrgyzstan based on the Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards methodology (PAWS) and facilitated the development of the information system Electronic Protected Areas as a unified and effective tool for wildlife conservation and protected areas management in Kyrgyzstan.