Not long ago, in the Manas airport of the Kirghiz capital, workers of Kirghiz customs detained foreigners who tried to illegally remove from the country their hunting trophies: three Marco Polo sheep, while each of them costs, according to world standards, $7,000. Unfortunately, this is not the first case of the kind. .
The deputy chief of main office by the State Forest Agency, Yury Vantserovsky, reported to journalists that the detained foreigners visited Kirghizia by invitation of the Ular private hunting agency not for the first time and each time they killed rare animals, while not possessing any licence. In total, according to Yury Vantserovsky, in the republic, there are about 30 such firms, whose activities are poaching and the violation of Kirghiz legislation.
Unfortunately, it is not a secret that rare animals are being predatorily annihilated in Kirghizia, and not only animals. Relict nut woods of Arslanbob are threatened with annihilation, as well as fish in unique lakes; valued birds, including falcons and golden eagles; and the population of snow leopards.
Specialists are mostly concerned with the fate of ilbirs, as the snow leopard is called in Kirghizia. According to their information, within the last ten years, the number of these animals reduced by four or five times. In the whole of Central Asia and the Altai and Sayany Region, there are at most 800 heads. In Kirghizia, there are about 150-200 examples, while this number is being reduced. The main problem is not only in the very beautiful skin the animals have but also their bones, which are being used in non-traditional Chinese medicine: many people are of the view that these bones can cure many human illnesses.
Of course, a snow leopard or brown bear skin is a unique trophies, which can get into the arms of rich foreigners or hunters from official circles. However, a long list of rare animals belonging to the Red Book is also at the average hunters’ disposal, while they are not being stopped by fines, because it is nothing in connection with the worthy trophies.
A year ago, in the framework of a special project devoted to the protection of the snow leopard in Northern Eurasia, the Asia-Irbis association was created, to which ecologists of five countries belong. Over a year, a common project of the Environmental Ministry and German Union of Nature Protection meets the republic. In solving the problem, the American Holy Soil organization participates. While Kirghizia itself created a special group of Emergency Ministry and Internal Ministry workers, equipped with the most up-to-date technical vehicles.
“Only within the recent one and a half years, the leader of the group Vladimir Radchenko says that we uncovered dozens of poaching cases, we found traps, snares etc. We also caught poachers of roe deer, mountain sheep, foxes, marmots, and golden eagles. We also saw snow leopard skins…” Recently, for some unknown reasons, golden eagle’s cut off pads became a talisman: local businessmen like hanging them in their cars.
What a pity that namely Kirghiz independence brought such a rage of poaching to the country, which is called the “animal Mafia.” Kirghiz citizens have always been very respectful towards animals, especially towards their totems. Let us remember an ancient legend about the hunter Kozhozhash who violated a warning of the Deer Mother and annihilated his clan. Famous writer Chingiz Aitmatov devoted to this legend his novel The White Steamer.
Last year, this legend about nature’s warning suddenly became a tragic reality. Erkinbek Martynov, newly elected to Zhegorku Kenesha Legislative Assembly, who was the president of Formation Stock Company, died in Naryn region, where he hunted out of season. The helicopter from which the young deputy was firing at defenceless animals got caught on a rock and fell. Erkinbek Martynov is said to have told the day before his death about a strange dream he had: when he shot at a roe deer, it turned around and looked at him with his mother’s reproach.
The parliamentarian paid for the violation of the law he himself had commited. However, most of “animal Mafia” members easily avoid any penalties. Their high position in society or bribes, but sometimes simply bad work of nature protecting organiziations, help them. Any way, for the time being, no proceedings have been instituted yet against those who kill snows leopards. Therefore, the state itself is the poachers’ accomplice.
Yury Razgulaev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kirghizia
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/06/17/42718.html