The philosophy behind the establishment and work of the Hunting and Conservation Alliance of Tajikistan (H&CAT) is to harness the skills, resources and capacity to provide the community-based NGOs and small businesses, which manage the conservancies, with the tools to develop a broad range of conservation and sustainable use initiatives.
H&CAT and its partners address the conservation of the entire ecosystem and its biodiversity, including carnivores like the snow leopard, and the development of local community in a way that is sustainable and does not harm their environment and wildlife.
H&CAT has been established by local NGOs and small family businesses, which all manage community-based wildlife conservancies. H&CAT has the purpose of:
- Promoting the conservation and sustainable use of the different species found in the conservancies, including strictly regulated and sustainable hunting of Asiatic ibex, Marco Polo sheep, Bukhara urial, Tajik markhor and Wild boar , and nature tourism with observation of protected animals like snow leopard, brown bear and many other species;
- Supporting the conservancies’ managers in the conservation and sustainable use of its wildlife, pastures, forests, mountains and other natural resources;
- Providing advice to the NGOs, small family businesses and local communities on governance and institutional issues, including by providing advice on how best to invest proceeds from hunts in projects aimed at improving local livelihoods and fostering the development of the communities in and adjacent to the conservancies;
- Marketing the uniqueness of the hunts as well as other tourism opportunities, by highlighting the benefits to wildlife conservation, livelihoods of rural people and sustainable development of the involved communities; and Acting as the link between the community-based organizations, managing the conservancies and offering hunting and tourism services, and the interested hunters, hunting outfitters, tourists and travel companies.
H&CAT is a non-commercial and non-governmental organization, acting as the umbrella for the member conservancies, whose profits from sustainable hunting and tourism are reinvested into nature conservation and community development in and around the conservancies.
Tajikistan is a mountainous, landlocked country in Central Asia. Its population was 8 million in 2013 and continuous to grow. It is a beautiful country with impressive landscapes and friendly people, famous for their hospitality.
Mountains cover more than 90% of the country, with the mountain systems of Hissar-Alay, including the Hissar, Zerafshan and Turkestan ranges, and the Pamirs with a number of ranges and peaks up to 7,495 m (Peak Ismoil Somoni) being the most important.
The country’s mountain regions are home to some of the most remarkable wildlife of Asia, like snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, Tajik markhor, urial sheep and Asiatic ibex. Therefore, Tajikistan is already famous as destination for mountain game hunters, in particular for its Marco Polo sheep, which can be hunted in several large hunting concessions managed by private companies. E.g., the concession area of “Murgab” LLC is inhabited by more than 8,000 Marco Polo sheep.
But concessions and protected areas are not the only important wildlife areas! In several parts of the Pamirs and other mountain ranges traditional hunters from local communities have established their own organizations for the conservation and sustainable use of game species and for the preservation of strictly protected animals.
Community-based wildlife management is a recent development in Tajikistan.
During and after Tajikistan’s civil war (1992–1997), poaching was rampant, especially in the Pamirs where food was insufficient, arms were easily accessible, and enforcement of hunting regulations was virtually absent.
Populations of all wild sheep and wild goat species as well as other wildlife suffered from this intensive pressure. In some areas local traditional hunters during the last years increasingly understood that past declines of wildlife were a direct effect of unregulated and intensive hunting, and that such declines would finally not only deprive them of their own hunting opportunities but also cause the loss of related income opportunities as well as the cultural value wild animals have in the local traditions.
Local hunters agreed to establish legally recognized control over the areas used by them, prevent community members as well as outsiders from poaching, and after recovery of the populations start a regulated and sustainable use, based on surveys and agreed quotas.
Since 2008 wildlife management areas that are protected by families or associations of local hunters have been established with the support of wildlife conservation and development organizations. Revenues generated from guided hiking, game-viewing, wildlife photography and hunting are to support the work of local rangers and nature guides, and any surpluses are invested into local development projects. This approach provides revenues to local families and motivates them to refrain from unsustainable poaching and to protect durably the wildlife populations and the ecosystems they rely on.
Nowadays community-based conservancies cover almost 300,000 ha of wildlife habitat, inhabited by healthy and growing populations of mountain ungulates and other wildlife, providing excellent opportunities for observation of animals and for responsible and sustainable hunting tourism!