Citizen/Ranger rewards = increased protection for snow leopards

In 2021, park rangers, environmental specialists and local citizens of Kyrgyzstan intercepted poachers with skins and bones of snow leopards and other species bound for illegal wildlife markets. Many mountain ungulates were also confiscated, most of which were illegally hunted for bushmeat. Illegal trade in endangered species is a significant threat to snow leopards and their wild prey. This success story reinforces how conservation partnerships can help secure a future for snow leopards.

Nearly a decade ago, Snow Leopard Trust and the Kyrgyz government established the Citizen-Ranger Wildlife Protection program to inspire, recognize and support the work of rangers and encourage local communities to work with them to protect wildlife.

Ranger in Kyrgyzstan, credits: SLF-Kyrgyzstan & SLT

On World Wildlife Day this year, 25 people were honored for their efforts to protect wildlife and reduce poaching. Our partner organization, the Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan, hosted the 8th Annual Citizen Ranger Awards Ceremony in Bishkek to honor local rangers, environmentalists and citizens for their outstanding work in 2021 to protect snow leopards and other wildlife. They have received certificates of appreciation, visibility and press coverage, and a financial reward for cooperatively apprehending and prosecuting poachers over the past year. This recognition from society and their government inspires these rangers and citizens to continue their hard work to protect these landscapes.

One of this year’s recipients intercepted a poacher at a checkpoint near the Sarychat-Ertash nature reserve, trying to disguise an ibex carcass as cattle meat. The attacker resisted and fled, but the recipient managed to videotape the encounter. The attacker was then detained by local police, fined $1,136, and disqualified from owning a gun for the next five years.

In another case last year, a ranger learned that someone was trying to sell three snow leopard skins for a total of US$4,000 in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city. The guard acted quickly, reaching out to local law enforcement. Together they devised a sting operation to lure the person into a possible sale. The attacker has been arrested and faces a hefty $43,000 fine and possible jail time if the fine is not paid.

Overall, last year, rangers prevented trade in various species, including snow leopard skins, brown bear skins, red deer, and ibex and argali parts. The Citizen-Ranger Wildlife Program strengthened the protection of snow leopards and their prey throughout Kyrgyzstan.


The program has been run from the start as a partnership between the Kyrgyz Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Control (MNRETC), Snow Leopard Trust and Snow Leopard Foundation Kyrgyzstan (SLFK). To learn more about the Citizen-Ranger Wildlife Program, read here.

Thanks :

Special thanks are due to the UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, which provides in perpetuity funds for ranger awards. The Whitley Fund for Nature helped set up this program with catalytic funding during the pilot phase. We were able to organize the 2022 event to reward rangers and citizens with the generous support of the Toronto Zoo and the Woodland Park Zoo, in collaboration with the MNRETC (Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Control) .

We also express our gratitude to the Kyrgyz parliamentarian and the UK ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, the director of the World Bank in Kyrgyzstan, the business ombudsman for their participation in the celebration of World Wildlife Day and our many supporters.

About Sandra A. Powell

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