Changing Lives, One Corral at a Time

Predator-proof corrals built in Kyrgyzstan to help herders keep their livestock safe and prevent conflicts with snow leopards.

Akyl Kydyraliev is a livestock herder in the remote pastures near the village of Ak-Shiyrak, in the Kyrgyz Tian Shan mountains. For him and his family, their sheep and goats are the main source of livelihood.

Akyl has been a dedicated conservationist for many years. He even used to work as a wildlife ranger at nearby Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve. At the same time, the very wildlife he’s so passionate about has been causing him severe economic hardship. “Wild predators sometimes kill 20 sheep in one night when they enter a holding pen”, Akyl says.

Such livestock losses due to attacks by wild predators have long been a major source of conflict between the interests of local herding communities and wildlife conservation in rural Kyrgyzstan. In the past, such conflicts have led to negative attitudes towards snow leopards and other wildlife.

Snow leopards and wolves can cause severe economic and emotional hardships to local herders when they prey on livestock. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan / SAEPF / Snow Leopard Trust

To address these problems, our team in Kyrgyzstan has helped Akyl and several other local herders near the village of Ak-Shiyrak build predator-proof corrals to protect their livestock.

The first three corrals were built earlier this spring, and a fourth one is currently under construction.

The first predator-proof corral in the Ak-Shiyrak valley is ready for its future inhabitants. Photo by SLT Kyrgyzstan

“We’ve been able to purchase materials such as wire mesh and metal poles for another ten corrals, which we’re planning to complete later this year”, says Kuban Jumabai uulu, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Kyrgyzstan Program Director.

Metal poles are welded together to form a cage, which is then covered in wire mesh. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan

“Each of them takes between one and two weeks to build, depending on how many herders are around to help. But since there is no electricity in these remote areas, we’re relying on a single power generator to weld and cut metal poles etc.”

The Ak-Shiyrak valley is off the grid, so the team had to work with a single generator to power welding and cutting tools. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan

Each predator-proof corral measures ca. 15 x 15 meters on average and can house 250-300 sheep and goats.

For Akyl, the simple wire mesh enclosure has a life-changing effect: “This corral will keep my livestock safe from snow leopards and wolves. I’m very grateful to the team for helping me deal with this problem in such a positive way”, he says.

Akyl is proud of his new corral – and grateful for the relief it will bring him. Photo by SLF Kyrgyzstan

Predator-proof livestock corrals are a highly effective tool to prevent livestock losses and resulting conflicts. The Snow Leopard Trust and its partners have built or reinforced a total of around 120 such corrals in snow leopard habitats of Mongolia, India and Pakistan to date – and there have been no livestock losses in any of those corrals since.

“Our surveys have shown that herders in Kyrgyzstan face the same predation problems as in other countries, but we didn’t have the necessary means to do something about it in the past”, Kuban says. Snow Leopard Trust and University of Aberdeen were able to lend a hand with expertise in the construction of predator-proof corrals. Catalyst funding from Darwin Initiative allowed the team to bulk order the supplies and get them out to the field. This has made it possible for Kuban and his team to finally start building corrals in Kyrgyzstan as well.

Omurbek Kurmanaliev, a senior ranger at Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve who also holds livestock in the valley, wholeheartedly supports the initiative. “Currently, wolves are perhaps the biggest threat to livestock, but we’ve seen more signs of snow leopards in these valleys lately, and more attacks can be expected from them as well. It’s fantastic for our communities that the Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan are helping us prevent conflicts and protect livestock, and people’s reactions have been very positive. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this possible.”

*Darwin Initiative is made possible with funding from the UK Government.

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