I know of no other such country

21 Jun 2016

 Photo Credit: Vlad Ushakov. Illustration: Ilias Makeev, (15 years old). "Kan Achuu" area highlighted in red on the map of the Kyrgyz Republic

 “I know of no other such country” - belts out a popular Russian song, which you unwittingly start singing, when driving on mountainous roads, passing the famous Naryn river, or the hilly slopes of Jalalabad oblast. You see how spring flows into summer, and suddenly you are ambushed by thick snowfall.

A team of UNDP experts recently visited the newly established “Kan-Achuu” natural park in the Toguz-Toro rayon. If you look at the map of Kyrgyzstan, the park is located in the very heart of the country, surrounded by the majestic Western Tian Shan. A place of incredible beauty, with its richness of natural landscapes and rare animals, such as the snow leopard (Panthera uncia), the Tian Shan white-clawed bear, the lynx and the golden eagle. Without guides and horses it is nearly impossible to reach these places therefore it retained untouched. However, it is also famous for many mysterious legends.








Local residents, the old-timers tell mystical stories about “Kan-Achuu” convincing they saw the Yeti and his footprints. “Jeztyrmak” (Yeti’s Kyrgyz version) often appears in the snowy mountains. “…There are two types of them. One is big and does not come down to the river, the small one walks in the water,” noted by popular traveler.

The legend about the snow leopard (Uncia uncia) intrigues a lot. They tell the area “Kan-Achuu” is translated from Kyrgyz as “bloodletting”. The story tells about a poor young man, who had unrequited love for a lady and run away far into the mountains. The man turned into a snow leopard, which now protects the borders of his domains, heartlessly kills all strangers who menace animal and plant world, after all throws them into the river. “Kan Achty” - “Let the blood out”, thus locals explain the natural occurrence when the river turns into the red color.

The story may be a legend, but there is a grain of truth – all species in nature play a role - the snow leopard often symbolizes the health and cleanliness of the mountains Kyrgyz Republic. Suddenly you realize that if the number of snow leopards grows, the better will be with the ecosystem. According to the stories of local residents, around 10 species of snow leopard live on the territory of “Kan-Achuu”, “Toguz-Toro” rayons today, but in fact their exact number is unknown.

The snow leopard range is quite wide; these are the 12 countries of Asia, including Kyrgyzstan - the home to the highest snow-capped peaks of the world. At the same time our republic is vulnerable to climate change due to intensive melting of glaciers.

Recall the UN Ambassador on climate issues Leonardo DiCaprio’s speech: “2015 was the hottest year in recorded history and we could not find snow for shooting the scenes. The climate is changing and it is the most urgent threat to us today.”

Besides, Leo supports conservation of wild fauna in Kyrgyzstan, precisely in the Western Tian-Shan. Perhaps, it is not accidental that our country among 12 countries of the world signed the Declaration on the Conservation of the Snow Leopard, included in the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2013, our country held the first Global Forum at the initiative of the President. Recognizing achievements of Kyrgyzstan, it was decided to establish a Working Secretariat for the Global Program on Snow Leopard and Ecosystems Protection in Bishkek.

Besides numerous projects, the UN Development Programme in the Kyrgyz Republic works on ensuring natural parks “Kan-Achuu” in Toguz-Toro rayon and “Alatay” in Toktogul oblast, preservation of its biological diversity. In addition to housing the snow leopard, these areas are also a place of migration of many types of animals including ibex, roe deer. At present, UNDP is actively working on developing a full-size project, funded by the Global Environmental Facility.

Local rangers, foresters, self-governments and residents must take utmost active participation in preservation of nature. We should educate our children to love the places where we live, that certainly needs women’s involvement in promotion of ecotourism and other alternative sources of income. Women’s patrol groups is one of the most interesting ideas, which has successful examples.  The budget of local communities will receive funds, the economy of the villages will develop, leading to more favorable conditions for ecosystems preservation.

Every legend contains moral part and our snow leopard tell humans should not be enemies, but become friends and protectors they are responsible for, otherwise humanity will vanish just like the master of the mountains – the snow leopard is slowly disappearing because of our devastating advance on his territory.

As a conclusion we recall President Almazbek Atambaev’s speech at the Global Forum on Snow Leopard Conservation: “Those who shoot a snow leopard, shoot their own people.”

Umutai Dauletova, UNDP Kyrgyzstan Gender Mainstreaming Specialist, (umutai.dauletova@undp.org)

Gulzira Muktarova, “Sustainable Development” Program Assistant, (gulzira.muktarova@undp.org)

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