The future of wildlife in the hands of local communities. Case: Tajikistan.

In a country like Tajikistan, one of the poorest in the world, local people stand out and show that they can take care of their wildlife. 

More than a decade ago local hunters and concerned individuals in Tajikistan started recognizing that the population of Bukharan Markhor was soon going to go extinct due to indiscriminate poaching and illegal trophy hunting and in 2008 the first association to manage hunting on communal land was established.

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Bukharan Markhor in the mountains of Tajikistan

Their efforts have been rewarded and now the area has a healthy population, protected by the local inhabitants and dense enough to have a recognized and official hunting quota.

With the support from various international conservation organization such as IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), CF (Conservation Force), CIC (International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation) and Panthera, local people established community-based conservancies and got the land assigned. Getting the land assigned in this case means the right to receive a quota in exchange for protecting the land and its wildlife.

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They learned how to implement modern monitoring systems and how to use GPS units, rangefinders, count the ungulates and camera traps. Monitoring events have been established and an enhanced wildlife database supports decision-making and supervision of hunting activities on the national and local level. Tajik governmental authorities supported this approach from the start, ensured the allocation of game management areas and allocated rights to the local community organizations.  

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As a result, in 2013, 6 Bukharan markhor hunting permits were issued, based on a 2-3 fold increase of markhor populations within 5 years! Not to forget that prey availability is correlated with snow leopard presence, which has lead to an outstanding increase of recorded numbers.  Rangers from these communities risk their lives to protect these animals with the incentive that if they can sustain healthy populations, they can eventually see the rewards through some limited sustainable use of the species.

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Foreign hunters are willing to pay thousands of dollars to shoot Bukharan Markhor, Urial and trophy sized ibex, especially if the proceeds from the hunts are invested in projects and activities that benefit the community as a whole. The new hunting law ensures that 40% of the permit fees is allocated to local communities, in addition communities earn revenue through the hunting fees directly as a donation to sustain their conservancy project, research and anti-poaching efforts.

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Projects like that show that the future of nature and its wildlife is in the hands of local communities and are an inspiring role model of close communication between governmental authorities, local communities and NGO’s all around the world.  They identify hunting as a crucial tool for conservation and as an integral and legitimate component of nature conservation projects.

#cowu (conservationists of the world, unite!)

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