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AKIPRESS.COM - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as part of a broad coalition of international partners, has launched a regional initiative to save the snow leopard and protect its sanctuaries in 12 range countriesб UNDP said.
With as few as 4,000 individuals still alive from Kazakhstan to China, the scheme will train wildlife, border and customs agencies in those countries and help them jointly combat the illegal trade in snow leopards, while at the same time boosting the exchange of knowledge on how to best protect the majestic big cat’s habitat.
It will be executed by the Snow Leopard Trust and the Secretariat of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme, based in Bishkek.
“Concrete steps have been taken to strengthen the management of snow leopard habitats, and to improve transboundary collaboration,” said Cihan Sultanoğlu, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS at a large international conference on the topic. “But there is of course much more that needs to be done – the threats remain,” she added.
Poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife species, extractive industries, but also climate change and dwindling biodiversity have been putting immense pressure on the snow leopard’s ecosystem. The snow leopard is emblematic of the intense pressure high-altitude environments are facing, from Afghanistan to China.
Because the snow leopard plays an important ecological role, regulating animal populations and keeping grasslands and wetlands healthy, its survival is also crucial to the ecosystems in which humans themselves live.
With over $48 million in grants from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP is already working with governments and partners in nine range countries to promote sustainable land and forest management across a surface area of 17 million hectares, expand protected areas and restore degraded rangeland.
Through the small grants programme, GEF is also financing and supporting projects that conserve and restore the snow leopard’s habitat while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods.
In 2013, political leaders in 12 snow leopard range countries endorsed the Bishkek Declaration, launching an ambitious programme to secure 500,000 km2 of habitat through community-based conservation, anti-poaching efforts and sustainable livelihoods.
Hosted by the President of Kyrgyzstan, the International Snow Leopard and its Ecosystem Conservation Forum will convene leaders from all twelve snow leopard range states and international experts. It will aim to galvanize international support for their ambitious plan of securing 20 snow leopard landscapes by the year 2020.
A complementary Green Investment Forum is being organized at the same time to attract broader green investments to high-mountainous regions.