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, wildlife viewing, wildlife photography and sustainable hunting are to support the work of local rangers and nature guides, and are invested into local development projects. This approach provides revenues to local families and motivates them to refrain from poaching and to protect into the future the wildlife populations and the ecosystems they rely on.
Association of Nature Conservation Organizations of Tajikistan supports the conservation of wildlife in areas managed by people from the local communities. These organizations – being it local NGOs or small family businesses – are rooted in the local communities and aim at providing benefits to the whole populations of the areas where they are active. The involvement and support by the entire communities is essential for effective conservation management. Being it community members refraining from poaching and not assisting external poachers, help with anti-poaching work, joint decision making on land-use and in particular livestock grazing to reduce competition and disturbance of wildlife, reduction of disease transmission risks between livestock and wildlife or the prevention and mitigation of conflicts between humans and wildlife, in all these and more issues the local people play and the collaboration of those involved in wildlife management with the other households of the communities are essential!
During and after Tajikistan’s civil war (1992–1997), poaching was rampant, arms were easily accessible, and enforcement of hunting regulations was virtually absent. Ibex, argali and and markhor populations suffered from this intensive pressure.
With support from Partners (see section), several communities and traditional hunters in each of them came together to address poaching . They thus agreed to establish legally recognized conservancies, as well as work towards preventing community members and outsiders from poaching, with a view after recovery to start sustainable and regulated use of huntable species, based on surveys and agreed quotas.
Since their establishment, all of the conservancies, and their rangers working on a volunteer basis, are responsible for the management and monitoring of the mountain ungulate species found on their grounds. Through annual surveys they monitor population trends. Camera trapping is regularly carried out to deter poachers and to monitor snow leopards, depending upon an abundant ungulate prey base for their survival. In areas where depredation of livestock by snow leopards is a problem, the conservancies are also responsible for building predator-proof livestock corrals to eliminate conflict.
Proceeds from hunts are invested in monitoring activities and projects identified by the conservancies aimed at improving the livelihoods of the local communities and generating support for wildlife conservation. Proceeds from tourism is also important to support the economies of the conservancies.
Wild animals play an important role in the culture and traditions of the peoples of Tajikistan. Horns of mountain ungulates are traditionally deposited at holy sites. People are glad if they can see ungulates close to their villages. Even the presence of snow leopards in a village territory makes them proud, although it can cause livestock losses, which often trigger deadly retaliation.
The conservation of wildlife beyond these immaterial values also should provide material benefits. Revenues from hunting are used to pay some of the work of the rangers for wildlife protection and management, in particular the essential anti-poaching work. Both, NGOs and small enterprises, spend a part of their revenues for the improvement of the infrastructure and living conditions of the entire community. Examples for projects supported with money from hunts include reconstruction of village roads, improvement of irrigation systems, development of drinking water supply, English lessons for school children, repair and equipment of the sports hall, delivery of aid to poor families, and many more. The provision of services to hunters and other tourists is an additional source of cash income for households in the communities, not only for the members of the local organizations.