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Silent roar – con­serv­ing the snow leop­ard landscape

pub­lished 23 Octo­ber 2016 | mod­i­fied 23 Octo­ber 2016

Silent roar reportIn the world’s high places, there remains an ani­mal rarely seen and almost never heard — the snow leop­ard. This is the story of one of the world’s great cats, note­wor­thy for the fact that it does not roar. But its con­ser­va­tion story, intri­cately linked with the land­scapes and peo­ple, needs to be heard.

The Snow leop­ard has declined by 20% in the past two decades, leav­ing only an esti­mated 4,0006,500 of this iconic species left in the wild. With an effec­tive breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of about 2,500, numer­ous threats face this irre­place­able cat, rang­ing from ille­gal hunt­ing to habi­tat loss and our rapidly chang­ing climate.

There­fore, the United Nations Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) and the Gov­ern­ment of Kyr­gyzs­tan agree on a global project to con­serve snow leop­ards financed by inter alia the Global Envi­ron­ment Facil­ity (GEF).

Snow leopardsThe snow leop­ard pop­u­la­tion has declined by 20% in the past two decades, leav­ing only an esti­mated 4,0006,500 of this iconic species left in the wild.
Image credit The Global Envi­ron­ment Facil­ity.

In advance of Inter­na­tional Snow Leop­ard Day on 23 Octo­ber, the GEF has teamed up with the United Nations Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP) and the gov­ern­ment of Kyr­gyzs­tan to pro­duce the new pub­li­ca­tion, pdfSilent Roar: UNDP and GEF in the Snow Leop­ard Land­scape4.72 MB.

To fur­ther observe Snow Leop­ard Day, UNDP and the Gov­ern­ment of Kyr­gyzs­tan have announced a GEF financed Trans­bound­ary Coop­er­a­tion for Snow Leop­ard and Ecosys­tem Con­ser­va­tion project, at a joint event organ­ised with the Global Snow Leop­ard and Ecosys­tem Pro­tec­tion Pro­gramme (GSLEP).

The four-​year UNDP project, funded with US$ 1 mil­lion from the GEF and US$ 4.196 mil­lion in co-​financing, and imple­mented by the Snow Leop­ard Trust, will strengthen global trans­bound­ary efforts to con­serve snow leop­ards and their high moun­tain ecosys­tems. The project will address the key exist­ing and emerg­ing threats snow leop­ard pop­u­la­tions and local com­mu­ni­ties face with a focus on four Cen­tral Asian coun­tries: Kaza­khstan, Kyr­gyzs­tan, Tajik­istan and Uzbek­istan. It will also include pilot work in the Sarychat/​Central Tien Shan moun­tain range that includes two snow leop­ard land­scapes with shared bound­aries between Kyr­gyzs­tan and Kazakhstan.

The project results will be rel­e­vant not only for snow leop­ard and high-​mountain com­mu­ni­ties in Cen­tral Asia, and for the pro­tec­tion of these mag­nif­i­cent species, but also for all 12 snow leop­ard range coun­tries who have com­mit­ted to the objec­tives of the GSLEP programme
Magdy Martínez-​Solimán, UN Assis­tant Sec­re­tary Gen­eral and Direc­tor of UNDP’s Bureau for Pol­icy and Pro­gramme Support »

The pan­el­lists at the event set forth exam­ples of some of the trans­for­ma­tive actions that gov­ern­ments and part­ners have taken to con­serve snow leop­ards, and their high moun­tain ecosys­tems in ways that strengthen liveli­hoods of the indige­nous peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties, who live in and man­age a large part of these landscapes.

Fif­teen years ago, the snow leop­ard pop­u­la­tion in our Sarychat — Ertash reserve almost dis­ap­peared. But thanks to the efforts of our experts, our photo trap mon­i­tor­ing shows the strong pres­ence now of about 18 to 20 leop­ards. This is a mod­est vic­tory that inspires and gives hope that we can achieve more impres­sive results when we com­bine our efforts and share expe­ri­ences and exper­tise,” stated Abdyka­lyk Rus­ta­mov, Direc­tor, State Agency on Envi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion and Forestry, Kyr­gyz Republic.

The new pub­li­ca­tion cites sev­eral threats to snow leop­ards and the women and men who share the same moun­tain regions, as well as a range of holis­tic solu­tions. Some of these threats include: habi­tat loss and degra­da­tion; human-​wildlife con­flict; lack of trans­bound­ary coop­er­a­tion; poach­ing and ille­gal wildlife trade; and cli­mate change.

Photo essay about sav­ing snow leop­ards, pro­tect­ing ecosys­tems and strength­en­ing liveli­hoods:

Silent Roar by UNDP Ecosys­tems & Bio­di­ver­sity on Expo­sure

In a fore­word to the pub­li­ca­tion, Gus­tavo Fon­seca, GEF’s Direc­tor of Pro­grams, wrote: “GEF has a long his­tory of sup­port­ing con­ser­va­tion of the snow leop­ard (Pan­thera uncia) and its habi­tat, hav­ing approved 24 total projects and invested nearly US$ 100 mil­lion toward UNDP-​implemented projects in all 12 range coun­tries since 1991. This pub­li­ca­tion high­lights nine cur­rent GEF-​financed, UNDP-​implemented projects that have emerged since the Global Forum in 2013, rep­re­sent­ing an invest­ment of about US$ 45 mil­lion to sup­port snow leop­ard range coun­tries in meet­ing their national tar­gets toward achiev­ing GSLEP objec­tives. These nine projects alone have lever­aged over US$ 200 mil­lion in co-​financing from national and inter­na­tional partners.”

John Scan­lon, Secretary-​General of CITES stated, “The snow leop­ard is an iconic species, and CITES — the global legal instru­ment for reg­u­lat­ing inter­na­tional trade in wildlife, pro­vides it with the high­est level of pro­tec­tion. CITES is an active mem­ber of GSLEP and sup­ports a holis­tic approach to address­ing the threats the species faces. We will remain vig­i­lant and work together with our global part­ners and CITES Par­ties in safe­guard­ing this mag­nif­i­cent species.”

Snow leop­ard con­ser­va­tion and beyond
Pro­mot­ing snow leop­ard con­ser­va­tion serves a broader pur­pose than sim­ply sav­ing one endan­gered species. Snow leop­ards act as an indi­ca­tor of the health of the entire ecosys­tem in which they live, due to their posi­tion as the top (apex) preda­tor in the food web. A diverse and abun­dant com­mu­nity of species — from insects and birds to mam­mals, rep­tiles and plants — must be sus­tained within the habi­tat for an apex preda­tor to thrive. Mon­i­tor­ing snow leop­ard pop­u­la­tions alerts con­ser­va­tion­ists to con­di­tions that dis­rupt the health of the ecosys­tem, allow­ing them to take action to mit­i­gate threats for the ben­e­fit of all species that live within it.

Photo essay about work­ing in the snow leop­ard land­scape to restore ecosys­tems, build liveli­hoods and save a species:

Sup­port­ing the Silent by UNDP Ecosys­tems & Bio­di­ver­sity on Expo­sure

Pre­serv­ing snow leop­ards through­out their range directly enhances habi­tat vital­ity by main­tain­ing bal­ance in the food web. Snow leop­ards func­tion as a key­stone species — although they occur in rel­a­tively low abun­dance, snow leop­ards play a crit­i­cal role in reg­u­lat­ing the pop­u­la­tions of other species, pre­vent­ing any one species from dom­i­nat­ing the habitat.

The snow leop­ard is clas­si­fied as Endan­gered by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species.

(Source: The Global Envi­ron­ment Facil­ity news release, 21.10.2016; United Nations Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme web­site)

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