The “Gruppa Bars”, an anti-poaching unit was set up to save snow leopards in the Kyrgyz Republic 10 years ago with the help of funding from the German Conservation Agency NABU.
Gruppa Bars means ‘snow leopard’ in Kyrgyz. The team has far-reaching powers and is equipped with weapons. They have the power to arrest suspects and seize live animals, skins, weapons and other evidence.
In the last decade the Gruppa Bars have captured 180 poachers and confiscated many snow leopard pelts as well as furs from other endangered animals. They’ve also confiscated and destroyed hundreds of traps. There’s no doubt this team has made a huge difference in saving snow leopards in the country.
Since the late 90’s living standards fell sharply after the dissolution of the Soviet states and the demand for snow leopard parts (for traditional medicine in China) and fur meant the cats in Kyrgyzstan have been hunted relentlessly.
A few years ago three live cats were saved after they’d been captured in brutal traps. All had parts of their paws removed because of the traps and can’t hunt successfully or feed themselves. But they’re now living protected in a large enclosure in a NABU supported wildlife reserve.