This week on March 19th and 20th, Ministers and senior officials of 12 snow leopard range countries will come together for the first Steering Committee meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystems Protection Program (GSLEP) in Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic. They will continue the work begun in October 2013 when all 12 countries signed the Bishkek Declaration to protect their snow leopards.
The GSLEP Program is a world first, a joint initiative of all the governments of the range countries, many international organisations, civil society and the private sector. Together the aim is the long-term survival of the snow leopard in its natural ecosystem.
Members include the Climate Change Minister of Pakistan, Mushahidullah Khan, who told his country’s media yesterday, “Glacial area in Pakistan’s north is spread over 16933 square kilometre, which provides remarkable habitat for the endangered snow leopard but these habitats are vanishing due to rapidly melting glaciers as average temperatures in the northern parts soar.”
“Snow leopards are at risk also from poaching,” he said, and asked people living in range countries to help their governments to stop illegal hunting.
Mr Mushahidullah Khan also said he hoped joint efforts to be pledged by countries at the GSEP meeting in Bishkek would help protect snow leopards from becoming extinct and preserve the critical biodiversity found in their mountain habitats.
Key partners in this initiative include – The State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, along with the GSLEP Secretariat , the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), Union for Conservation of Nature and Biodiversity (NABU), Snow Leopard Trust (SLT), Snow Leopard Conservancy, Snow Leopard Network, NABU, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), World Bank (WB) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
On the 21st of March delegates will join the Noorus (Central Asia NewYear) celebrations where there will be ceremonies associated with “New Beginnings”. In some homes owners have a lovely tradition of burning juniper leaves to let the smoke drive away bad spirits
There’ll also be the taking of sumalaq, a special ritual meal, only made now and like New Year everywhere, people will be visiting friends and relatives.
Happy New Year to all our friends and colleagues in Central Asia and good luck with saving the snow leopard in all your countries.