How a Hunting Reserve Became a Snow Leopard Sanctuary
Kyrgyzstan’s president is taking bold steps to protect a crucial Central Asian population of the cats, long seen as sacred by his citizens.
For the elusive snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan, a satisfying meal consists of an ibex or an argali. As it happens, these wild relatives of goat and sheep—bearers of spectacular, curved horns—are also the quarry of trophy hunters.
Although a quota system has been in place to regulate the number of animals taken for trophies, until recently intense illegal hunting in Kyrgyzstan has severely depleted these ungulates, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which sets the conservation status of species. And as their main prey animals have grown scarcer, the numbers of snow leopards, which are endangered globally, have fallen too.
But after President Almazbek Atambayev took office in December 2011, the picture has brightened for Kyrgyzstan’s snow