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Collateral damage: Snow leopards and trophy hunting in Kyrgyzstan

31 / 08 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

BOKONBAYEVO, Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyz folklore is laden with stories that warn its adherents against the over-hunting of animals. In one foreboding tale, Kodzhodzash, the leader of the Ak-Bars tribe, brutally ignores the wish of a female ibex, shooting dead her child and her mate. “May your father cry over you as I cry over my murdered children and for the loss of my kind,” the ibex curses, before luring the hunter to his death. Despite these admonitions, trophy hunting has become a lucrative industry in Kyrgyzstan, drawing tourists from across the world with its low prices and lax hunting laws. Until last year, a license to kill Kyrgyzstan’s most prized trophy, a Marco Polo sheep, was $3,600 while a Siberian ibex could be shot for just $500. The fees have almost doubled in the last year, yet remain regionally and globally competitive. Both the Marco Polo sheep, a subspecies of the argali (Ovis ammon), and the Siberian ibex (Capra sibrica) can be found on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, with the former listed as Near Threatened. The existing law in Kyrgyzstan does not prohibit the hunting of rare, threatened or endangered species. Instead, it states that animals listed in the Red Book of Kyrgyzstan, including the Marco Polo sheep, can be pursued by those in possession of a special license. A camera trap captures a snow leopard in Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary, Kyrgyzstan. Photo courtesy of the Snow Leopard Trust. According to the IUCN, there…

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