Deputy chartered secretary of the Kyrgyzstan government Urmat Karmyshev said at a special press-conference that argali re-count was a pressing problem. All governmental structures responsible for environmental protection had been destroyed by the market reforms. Poaching has awfully expanded in the country within several past years. Meat of argali, which is included in the Red Book as species becoming extinct, is even sometimes sold at the markets; the price of the meat is slightly higher than ordinary mutton. As a result of such conspicuous maltreatment, the argali population is drastically reducing; it makes up only 13-14 thousand, as Karmyshev says, which is several times less than ten years ago.
And argali is not the only animal which is on the verge of extinction. According to the Ministry for Ecology and Emergency Situations, birds and animals included in the Red Book are also ruthlessly exterminated. The population of snow leopard, for instance, has five times reduced within several years; specialists say that there are only 150-200 snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan now.
Green Peace specialists explain more active poaching with a new wave of increasing popularity in exotic souvenirs. Drivers, for instance, like to hang a golden eagle leg in their cars. People hunt for the talismans, but forget that a bird is to be killed to get a leg as a talisman. Increasing demand for Chinese medicines which are made of horns and viscera of such rare animals as snow leopard, mountain goat, argali and marmot, is another explanation to the increasing poaching. A special group from the Ministry for Ecology held a raid in the Issyk-Kul region last summer; tens of traps and snares were discovered at that, unfortunately, poachers themselves remained unpunished.
It is astonishing that Green Peace specialists know some of the poachers by sight and often catch them red-handed. However, this kind of struggle is ineffective as the size of penalty imposed on poachers is much less than cost of one golden eagle leg.
Meanwhile, hunting for exotic animals could yield considerable currency earning to Kyrgyzstan. Foreigners are ready to pay thousands of dollars for the permission to hunt for the horns of argali or Marco Polo sheep, which is even better. But foreign hunters rarely go to Kyrgyzstan for hunting because of poor service, transport problems and unreliable tourism companies organizing hunting tours.
The situation is not so sad in the rest of the republic, by the way; some regions have achieved considerable progress in nature protection. Employees of the Besh Tash preserve situated in the Talassky region managed to preserve and even revive some wild animals which were on the verge of extinction. Now the preserve has argali, roe deer, hare, marmot and even snow leopard of its own. Members of societies for nature protection have cleared mountain springs and take care of rare medical herbs.
Americans who recently visited the preserve, were amazed that the air was so unbelievably clean, the water so clear and the animal world rich enough. They also said that some investment is necessary for Besh Tash to be turned into a prestigious international tourism center with considerable investment.
Re-counting of argali in Kyrgyzstan is scheduled for the next year. This is to launch a large-scale program designed to protect the animal world and effectively use economic and financial opportunities provided by hunting and exotic tourism.