Argali to be Recounted

Deputy of the Kyrgyzstan government Urmat Karmyshev said at a special press-conference that an argali recount was a pressing problem. All governmental structures responsible for environmental protection have been destroyed by market reforms. Poaching has expanded in the country within the past several years. Meat of argali, which is included in the Red Book as a species becoming extinct, is even sometimes sold at the markets; the price of the meat is slightly higher than ordinary mutton. As a result of such conspicuous maltreatment, the argali population is drastically reducing; it makes up only 13-14 thousand, as Karmyshev says, which is several times less than ten years ago.

Argali is not the only animal that is on the verge of extinction. According to the Ministry for Ecology and Emergency Situations, other birds and animals included in the Red Book are also ruthlessly being exterminated. The population of snow leopard, for instance, has reduced by five times over the past several years; specialists say that there are only 150-200 snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan now.

Green Peace specialists explain more active poaching with a new wave of increasing popularity in exotic souvenirs. Drivers, for instance, like to hang a golden eagle leg in their cars. People hunt for the talismans, but forget that a bird is to be killed to get a leg as a talisman. The increasing demand for Chinese medicines, which are made of horns and viscera of such rare animals as the snow leopard, mountain goat, argali, and marmot, is another explanation for the increase in poaching. A special group from the Ministry for Ecology conducted a raid in the Issyk-Kul region last summer; dozens of traps and snares were discovered; however, unfortunately, the poachers themselves remained unpunished.

It is astonishing that Green Peace specialists know some of the poachers by sight and often catch them red-handed. However, this kind of struggle is ineffective as the size of penalty imposed on poachers is much less than cost of one golden eagle leg.

Meanwhile, hunting for exotic animals could yield considerable cash for Kyrgyzstan. Foreigners are ready to pay thousands of dollars for permission to hunt for the horns of argali or Marco Polo sheep, which are even better. However, foreign hunters rarely go to Kyrgyzstan to hunt because of poor service, transportation problems, and the unreliable tourist companies organizing hunting tours.

The situation is not so sad in the rest of the republic. Some regions have achieved considerable progress in nature protection. Employees of the Besh Tash preserve situated in the Talassky region managed to preserve and even revive some wild animals that were on the verge of extinction. Now, the preserve has argali, roe deer, hare, marmot, and even snow leopard of its own. Members of societies for nature protection have cleared mountain springs and take care of rare medical herbs.

Americans who recently visited the preserve were amazed that the air was so unbelievably clean, the water so clear, and the animal world so rich in species. They also said that some investment is necessary for Besh Tash to be turned into a prestigious international tourism center with.

The recounting of argali in Kyrgyzstan is scheduled for the next year. This is to launch a large-scale program designed to protect the animal world and effectively use economic and financial opportunities provided by hunting and exotic tourism.

Yury Razgulyayev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kyrgyzstan

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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