At the invitation of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, leaders from all snow leopard range countries and the international conservation community endorsed the 2017 Bishkek Declaration for Snow Leopards today at the International Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Forum. They pledged to intensify their joint effort to save the endangered cat, to monitor snow leopard landscapes and maintain their integrity and connectivity through natural corridors.
The talks in Bishkek will have an enormous impact on the snow leopard and its fragile mountain habitat, which provides fresh water to more than half of the world’s population. Recognizing this historic opportunity, more than 200,000 people around the world have signed a call to action to the leaders gathering in Bishkek through a joint petition by Snow Leopard Trust, WWF, and NABU.
Four years ago, range country leaders had first gathered in Bishkek to launch the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program at the invitation of the Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev. Today, they at the halfway point of this multi country conservation initiative, they came together once again to take stock of progress made, and discuss further efforts that will be needed to reach the goal they set for themselves.
The Forum’s host, President Atambayev, set the stage in his opening speech, and reminded delegates of the urgency: “If we don’t take drastic steps to conserve the snow leopard now, we will lose this precious species, as we have lost thousands of species before.”
In a video message, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres thanked the delegates for their efforts, and highlighted that the mountain ecosystems of the snow leopard are essential to the wellbeing of humanity.
Leaders from the twelve range countries and international partners such as the Snow Leopard Trust, UNDP, GEF, WWF, UNEP, GTI Council and NABU highlighted the need to protect fragile snow leopard ecosystems across the mountains of Asia, and to address the emerging threat of climate change across the snow leopard range.
“Range countries and partners have made impressive progress since 2013. They’ve done a lot of important ground work that has set us up for success. Several countries have finished management plans for their snow leopard landscapes, and others are almost there. Now we need to put these plans into action. The snow leopard still faces increasing threats, and they need to be addressed urgently”, says Michael Despines, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director.
“We still don’t have any solid estimates of how many snow leopards there really are. But we do know that we’re losing cats at an alarming rate, perhaps as many as one per day.”
Traditional direct threats including poaching and retaliation killings continue to loom large. Indirect threats such as climate change, the degradation of snow leopard habitat and prey base, illegal hunting or unsustainable infrastructure development add to the pressure.
In the 2017 Bishkek Declaration, range country leaders expressed their concerns about “continuing gap in knowledge about snow leopard status and populations”, and proposed to take up “scientifically sound initiatives” to assess the world’s snow leopard population. The GSLEP secretariat is launching a new initiative, PAWS (Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards) as a follow up.
The Snow Leopard Trust stands ready to lend its full support and expertise to this initiative.
“Due to remote locations and difficult terrain the challenge of studying snow leopards is seriously hampering the current scientific studies that often result in conflicting figures. However, I am sure that with state of the art scientific knowledge and expertise of the Snow Leopard Trust and other specialists this matter shall soon be resolved”, Mushahid Ulla Khan, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Climate Change and Chair of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program, said in his speech at the Forum.
Call to Action
“This conservation summit presents a unique opportunity for the snow leopard. We will do everything we can to urge range countries and partners to take advantage of this opportunity and commit to decisive action”, Michael Despines says.
More than 200,000 supporters have joined us in this call to action by signing a joint petition by the Snow Leopard Trust, WWF and NABU. Specifically, they are asking range countries to:
- Ensure that the snow leopard landscapes are secured and protected with the involvement and support of local communities through long-term management plans implemented by all sectors of government and other stakeholders.
- Create and implement a joint strategy with all range countries to combat poaching and illegal trade of snow leopards
- Safeguard the future of the snow leopard by supporting a range-wide, scientifically sound assessment of their remaining population to better inform conservation management
- Ensure that all infrastructure development in mountain ecosystems is sustainable and does not threaten snow leopards or their habitats
- Work with local communities to develop projects that will promote sustainable development in snow leopard landscapes, helping to decrease rural poverty while respecting the needs of wildlife.
President Atambayev’s office accepted the signatures from Goodwill Ambassador and actress Dia Mirza during the Global Forum.
The Role of the Snow Leopard Trust
Along with organizations such as UNDP, GEF, USAID and WWF, the GTI Council and NABU, the Snow Leopard Trust is one of the strategic partners of the event. Snow Leopard Trust staff members have helped lead the preparation of the event and supported the drafting of the 2017 Bishkek Declaration and policy recommendations for range countries. We’ve also provided the GSLEP program secretariat with support around communications and logistics, and will help lead media and PR for the event.
Along with Michael Despines, Science & Conservation Director Charu Mishra and other members of the Trust’s Science and Operations teams are in Bishkek during the Forum to help provide scientific expertise and share their considerable conservation experience from three decades of field work.
More information about the event can be found at http://forum.globalsnowleopard.org