Hosted by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), a conference entitled “Snow Leopard Conservation through Effective Habitat Management” took place in Dushanbe on October 29-31.

According to press issued by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), the event brought together over fifty snow leopard experts, scientists, government and non-government organizations

Among the participants were the Committee for Environmental Protection of Tajikistan, Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, Association of Hunters of Tajikistan, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP), and other organizations specialized in the study and conservation of snow leopard in Tajikistan.

The conference was organized in close partnership with UNDP’s Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Project and enabled the participants to be provided with updates on organisations’ activities in the area of snow leopard protection and get involved in the development of action plan for the snow leopard conservation in Tajikistan.

Major topics reportedly included protection efforts, latest achievements and conservation initiatives of the snow leopard species by environmental organizations, conservationists, and related agencies. 

Following the presentations, participants conducted a series of discussions on snow leopard protection, including studies on the ways and methods of reducing human-wildlife conflict, methods of facilitating long-term conservation plans in snow leopard range countries and scientific research methods on protection and conservation of this valuable species and its habitat. 

The precursor for the conference was the participation of relevant specialist from different government agencies at the 4th GSLEP Steering Committee Meeting in New Delhi through funding support of UNDP/ GEF, where the participants learnt from other snow leopard range countries the best practices and methods of snow leopard population estimation, ways of mitigating the human-wildlife conflict, community based interventions, as well as the learning on action plan and management plan development. The acquired information and learning were further on used and shared with wider audience during the conference.  The main output of the conference is the action plan for conservation and protection of snow leopard and its ecosystem, which will be finalized based on the feedback of all stakeholders and further on submitted for confirmation and approval to the government.   

According to the World Wild Fund for Nature, there are about 4,000 snow leopards left in the world and the numbers are declining due to poaching, habitat loss and climate change.

AKAH aims to strengthen sustainable wildlife conservation and enhance habitat management practices through its pilot project entitled “Protecting the Snow Leopard Population Through Effective Habitat Management” under funding provided by the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for Environment (PSAKFE).  As part of the project, AKAH conducts awareness raising sessions among communities, fosters network of local volunteers, supports construction works to improve the animal sheds in the villages to protect livestock and informs people about the importance of snow leopard conservation.  In the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), the project covers Shugnan and Roshtqala districts that are part of the snow leopard ranges in the region.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), which merges the capabilities of Focus Humanitarian Assistance, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, and the Aga Khan Development Network’s Disaster Risk Management Initiative, focuses on preparing for both sudden and slow-onset disasters.

AKAH works to ensure that people live in physical settings that are as safe as possible from the effects of natural disasters; that residents who do live in high-risk areas are able to cope with disasters in terms of preparedness and response; and that these settings provide access to social and financial services that lead to greater opportunity and a better quality of life. Initially, priority areas of AKAH will include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and India.