Almost a decade ago, Snow Leopard Trust and the Kyrgyz government created the Citizen-Ranger Wildlife Protection Program to inspire, recognize and support the work of rangers, and to encourage local communities to collaborate with them to protect wildlife.
On World Wildlife Day this year, 25 individuals were honored for their efforts to protect wildlife and reduce poaching. Our partner organization, Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan, held the 8th Annual Citizen-Ranger Rewards ceremony in Bishkek to honor rangers, environmental specialists and local citizens for their outstanding work in 2021 to protect snow leopards and other wildlife. They received certificates of appreciation, visibility and coverage in the press, plus a financial reward for cooperatively apprehending poachers and booking cases against them during the previous year. This recognition from society and their government inspires these rangers and citizens to continue their hard work to protect these landscapes.
One of this year’s recipients intercepted a poacher at a check post near Sarychat-Ertash Nature Reserve, trying to disguise an ibex carcass as livestock meat. The perpetrator resisted and fled the scene, but the recipient managed to film the encounter on video. The perpetrator was later detained by local police, fined $1136, and he lost the right to hold a rifle for the next five years.
In another case last year, a ranger learned of a person trying to sell three snow leopard pelts for a total of US$4,000 in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city. The ranger acted quickly, reaching out to local law enforcement officers. Together they devised an undercover operation to lure the person into a possible sale. The perpetrator was arrested and faces a significant fine of $43,000 and possible imprisonment if the fine is not paid.
Overall last year, rangers prevented trade in a variety of species, including snow leopard pelts, brown bear skins, red deer, and ibex and argali parts. The Citizen-Ranger Wildlife Protection Program has strengthened the protection of snow leopards and their prey throughout Kyrgyzstan.
The program has been run from the beginning as a partnership between Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Control (MNRETC)), Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan (SLFK). To read more about the Citizen-Ranger Wildlife Protection Program, read here.
Special thanks are due to the UK government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, which provides funds in perpetuity for the awards to rangers. The Whitley Fund for Nature helped set up this program with catalyst funding during the pilot phase. We were able to organize the 2022 event to award rangers and citizens with the generous support from Toronto Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo, in cooperation with MNRETC (Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Control).
We also express our gratitude to the Kyrgyz Parliamentarian, and the ambassador of the UK to Kyrgyzstan, World Bank’s director in Kyrgyzstan, Business ombudsman for their participation in the celebration of World Wildlife Day and our many supporters.