Wildlife monitoring. Photo: personal archive

The hero of today's interview is Nurlan Mamyrkulov, who, according to him, “has gone from a poacher to an environmentalist,” and is now a public inspector in Alatai State Nature Park. Nurlan has been engaged in the nature protection for already 3 years. How has he transformed from an illegal hunter into an environmentalist and begun to preserve the biodiversity of the Western Tian Shan? You can find more about it as well as about the job of a public inspector from the interview below.

Nurlan, how did it happen that you began to protect the wildlife?

Currently, I am a public inspector in Alatai Nature Park. Together with my fellow villagers, we learned that a joint patrol group is being formed from among local residents, and we decided to join. And for three years we have been helping the rangers of Alatai. One of the reasons why we took this step was because we realized that our nature urgently needs our protection.

Members of the Joint Patrol Group while receiving the certificate of public inspectors (Nurlan - bottom third left). Photo from the personal archive of Nurlan

To be frank, up to 2018 I have been one of those, who has hunted for ibex. We can say that I was a real poacher before I became a public inspector. There are people in the villages who consider wildlife to be their property. They like to hunt mountain goats and deer. And as a result of this, wild animals are becoming less and less.

And so, when the Alatai Nature Park was created in Toktogul district, and the Kan-Achuu park was established in the neighboring region, we were immensely pleased and immediately approved this project, as the number of wild animals in our mountains was decreasing.

Please tell us about those animals, what species are there in the region?

Our mountains are a home for ibex, deer, bears, marmots and badgers. There are snow leopards in the mountains adjoining Kan-Achuu. Moreover, a snow cock can be often encountered in the mount Karakyr-Ata, which is also in the Red List. We see, that pheasants have appeared in the outskirts of the village.

Nurlan, what are the actions of the joint patrol groups in the Alatai park?

We mainly work with the Alatai rangers and foresters in order to create the conditions for the wild animals. For example, we organize feeding of mountain ibex and deer and prepare hay for winter feed. We meet with local residents, conduct meetings, inform them, thereby contributing to anti-poaching activities and the protection of wildlife. In spring and autumn, we not only keep a record of animals around lake Kara-Suu, but also have to clean up the garbage left by some vacationers on the lake.

Nurlan during an expedition with a group of birdwatchers (Nurlan - right). Photo from the personal archive of Nurlan

Are there cases, when the poachers have been caught?

Of course, we have conducted several raids on the bank of the lake Kara-Suu in our Alatai district and have caught the poachers two times, who have fished illegally. As a result, we have filed a report with regard to them according to the law.

How useful have been the trainings on how to work within the frameworks of the law, to file reports and to build a capacity as a whole?

In general, the first task is to perform all works in accordance with the law. You shall know how to work with people. The UNDP-GEF project on conservation of the biodiversity in the Western Tian Shan has supported us from the beginning. By the way, we participated in the trainings organized within the framework of this project and learned a lot of useful things about environmental standards and the fight against poaching.

In addition, I have learned from these trainings about the rights and the obligations of the inspector and how to provide the first aid. Moreover, the project has provided us with a special uniform and binoculars and has taught us how to work with a camera and a GPS-navigator.

Public inspectors during wildlife recording (Nurlan – right). Photo from the personal archive of Nurlan

You work with the local population in order to conserve the biological diversity, what is the viewpoint of your fellow villagers on the whole?

Together with the UNDP office in Toktogul, we conduct regular lectures on biodiversity, talk about our work for schoolchildren in our village, urging young people to protect the environment and increase their environmental literacy. For example, this year we made a birdhouse with children and hung it in the garden. I can say that this attracts the interest of youth.

Recently, I participated in a competition in the village of Ozgorush on behalf of the public inspectors of the Alatai State Natural Park and won a prize. In general, the villagers are beginning to understand that we can save wildlife and continue to protect it.

Nurlan at the awards ceremony following the results of a competition. Photo from the personal archive of Nurlan

What are the plans for the future?

We create so-called “jamaats” from among the villagers who support us and are interested in nature conservation. Indeed, the more defenders of nature, the more sustainable our nature will be. We are working to increase the awareness of the villagers and change their consciousness. The plans are to develop ecological tourism, by preserving our beautiful nature. Of course, combating poaching and protecting endangered species will be our priority. There is still a lot of work ahead.

Nurlan, thank you very much for the interesting conversation, we wish you success in your work! 

About the UNDP-GEF Project

UNDP is currently implementing the project “Conservation of globally important biodiversity and associated land and forest resources of Western Tian Shan mountain ecosystems to support sustainable livelihoods”, which is aimed at preserving unique natural complexes and biodiversity, to promote the protection of rare and endangered species of fauna and flora. The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and is being implemented in partnership with the State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

About the Joint Patrol Groups

With the aim of strengthening participatory patrolling and enforcing anti-poaching in Western Tian Shan Protected Areas, joint patrol groups (hereinafter referred to as – the Groups) were established at Alatai and Kan-Achuu State Nature Parks. The Groups had developed their working plans and regularly conduct joint anti-poaching patrol raids. The Groups had been equipped with communication, optics, camera traps, and expedition equipment.

The Groups involve representatives of local law enforcement authorities, self-governance bodies, state administration, Association of Hunters and Fishermen, as well as hunting grounds managers to conduct random field inspection raids on a regular basis.

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