Global Snow Leopard Summit Held In Kyrgyzstan
The two-day International Snow Leopard Summit and Ecosystem Forum held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan concluded on August 25, 2017 with the 12 snow leopard range countries signing a declaration that focuses on adopting an integrated approach for the preservation of snow leopard habitats.
Photo:Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program.
The Bishkek Declaration called upon world leaders from Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The leaders gathered in Bishkek to fortify previous commitments made under a joint petition that had been developed by the Snow Leopard Trust, World Wide Fund for Nature and Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union.
This summit was held on the invitation of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, four years after the range country leaders first met in 2013 to launch the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP). Under this multi-country conservation program, the leaders set themselves the ambitious goal of securing 20 snow leopard landscapes by 2020. The International Snow Leopard Summit brought these countries together again, to review the progress that had been made and discuss further efforts that need to be undertaken to reach the goals they had set.
The summit highlighted the need to protect fragile snow leopard ecosystems across the mountains of Asia, addressing two of the greatest emerging threats to the snow leopard’s habitat— climate change and unsustainable infrastructure development.
As per a survey carried out by GSLEP in 2013, climate change and habitat loss due to human activities were termed as the main reasons behind the decline in snow leopard numbers. In addition, direct threats such as snow leopard poaching and retaliatory killings continue to loom large.
“Range countries and partners have made impressive progress since 2013. They’ve done a lot of important groundwork that has set us up for success. The snow leopard still faces increasing threats, and they need to be addressed urgently,” said Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director Michael Despines in an official statement.
Each member country was expected to present its management plan delineating the strategies to protect the areas that fall under its administration. While Nepal actively took the lead along with five other countries in issuing a detailed management plan, India lagged behind. However, countries like India have time until October 15, 2017 to secure their management strategies.
“What I find very encouraging is the strong political support for the snow leopard. It is fantastic that all snow leopard range countries have come together in a unique coalition for strengthening its protection. For a cat that occupies overlapping boundaries, such international cooperation is vital. It is such commitment that the snow leopard needs--as the species faces escalating threats from poaching, retaliatory killing, climate change and development of infrastructure and mining in their once remote habitats," said author and conservationist Prerna Bindra, who represented India at the summit.
Dia Mirza, actor, conservationist and member of Sanctuary’s Board of Governors, also attended the summit and delivered a keynote speech in which she emphasised the need to understand the umbilical link between ecology and economy. Lauding the endeavour Mirza said “Over two-hundred thousand signatures from over 50 countries are about to be presented here to you today. Remember, all these people are standing behind each one of us, with their support as we face the challenges to save the snow leopard. I am grateful, as are all these people, for your tireless work, your dedication and your commitment to this cause.”