Many thanks to IUCN Save Our Species for the fantastic support for the Land of the Snow Leopard (LOSL) Network!
While LOSL’s program area includes Mongolia and the Buryat and Altai Republics of Russia, this IUCN Save Our Species grant, entitled Sustaining Indigenous Communities in Snow Leopard Conservation, is focused on expanding education projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
LOSL Coordinators in these two countries have enthusiastically begun to refine lesson plans and make other preparations, working from home during the pandemic.
As many of our readers are aware, LOSL’s approach is unique in that our work is rooted in indigenous understanding of the sacredness and cultural and environmental significance of the snow leopard across central Asia. Indigenous peoples in this region relate to the snow leopard as to the cosmic axis of ancient traditions—protector of sacred mountains, unifying force, and source of spiritual power and wisdom.
During the Soviet era, this indigenous knowledge was all but lost, while the human-caused threats to snow leopards increased due to globalization, poaching, mining, and other forms of habitat destruction. Despite conservation efforts by mainstream science, local communities have been largely left out of planning and implementation of programs.
LOSL was formed to establish avenues whereby conventional science can seek the participation of indigenous communities in planning for snow leopard conservation. One important outcome of our annual meetings has been the growth of LOSL-driven education initiatives centered on the spiritual aspects of the snow leopard.
Photo: Qurbon Alamshoev
These girls are participating in the annual Snow Leopard Day festival spearheaded by LOSL coordinator Qurbon Alamshoev in Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains. IUCN Save our Species funding will bring improved educational materials and training to the Pamir communities.
Meet the Teams
Tungalagtuya Khuukhenduu is a Mongolian wildlife biologist who initiated the Nomadic Nature Trunk program in Mongolia. These trunks are “classrooms in a box,” that teachers, park staff, and others can borrow like library materials. Nature Trunks bring the only conservation-focused, hands-on education to thousands of school-age children in remote areas. LOSL members all requested expansion of this program to their areas, with new materials specifically focused on indigenous knowledge about snow leopards.
Photo: Tunga Khuukhenduu
Nature Trunks include a teacher’s manual and interactive lesson plans, plush toys of many of the Asian mountain animals, pugmark molds, costumes, and educational games.
Photo: Lyubov Ivashkina
Thanks to IUCN Save Our Species, Tunga will lead the expansion of Nature Trunks in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, offering critically needed nature science and conservation education to communities and schools in and around protected areas.
Photo: Lyubov Ivashkina
Qurbon Alamshoev will coordinate in Tajikistan.
Spiritual guide Sayfidin Shaidoev (left) and teacher Kurbonbek Aidarov (far right), chatting here with Zhaparkul Raimbekov during our 2017 meeting, will implement the Nature Trunk program.
Photo: Lyubov Ivashkina
In Kyrgyzstan, the program will be coordinated by Almagul Osmanova (below left) and Kuluipa Akmatova (below right).
Photos: Lyubov Ivashkina
Zhaparkul Raimbekov, one of Kyrgyzstan’s respected indigenous elders and knowledge keepers, serves his community through his wisdom and ability to bridge the present with the realm of the ancestors and relays with deep insight the blessings he receives.
Photo: Rural Development Fund, Kyrgyzstan
Last year, Zhaparkul and his team of indigenous cultural practitioners carried out a campaign to impart traditional knowledge of snow leopards and their habitat to students and their parents, teachers, and elders. There was widespread feedback for this campaign to be continued; young people were especially eager to learn more about their family roots and the conservation practices of their ancestors.
Thanks to IUCN Save our Species, Zhaparkul and his team will be able to build upon this educational campaign.
Funded by IUCN Save Our Species
IUCN Save Our Species aims to improve the long-term survival prospects of threatened species. It also focuses on supporting the species habitats and working with the communities who share this habitat. It achieves success by funding and coordinating conservation projects into multiple initiatives across the globe.
This project is funded by IUCN Save Our Species. The contents of this news article are the sole responsibility of the Snow Leopard Conservancy and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN.
Feature photo – Peter Bolliger