I’m home from another productive and fascinating trip to Altai. In order to maintain and build great working partnerships and maintain a more focused understanding of what’s going on on the ground, it’s critical that The Altai Project visit the region at least once annually. Each time, the trips combine field work and office meetings, and I try to meet as many people as possible to gain new perspectives. This year was no exception.
During my 17-day trip, I met with 8 conservation and indigenous non-profit organizations, the Republic’s Botanical Garden, Forestry Ministry, and Game Management Committee, 5 of the region’s 7 major protected areas, and had met briefly with amazing fledgling entrepreneurs funded by the Citi micro lending program.
* A learning session about the complexities of the proposed Karakul mine project
* Update on recent snow leopard numbers (steady or rising!)
* The start of a comprehensive transboundary argali survey while I was there
* Touring the new AruSvaty Traditional Knowledge Center in the sacred Karakol Valley
* Meeting the staff at Altai’s two newest parks – Sailyugem National Park and Ak-Cholushpa Nature Park
The most exciting news I learned during the trip was that the federal Ministry of Natural Resources has proposed folding Ukok Nature Park and Chikhachev Ridge (home to critical snow leopard and argali habitat and the site of the new proposed mines) into Sailyugem National Park, a move that would hugely improve wildlife protection, better manage tourism on Ukok, and make it more difficult to build the Altai Pipeline or develop the Karakul mixed metals deposits.
Lastly, while in Kosh-Agach, I had the privilege of meeting Mergen Markov and Slava Ispigaev, the two former poachers now gainfully employed by our partner organization, Arkhar, in snow leopard monitoring and conservation. Arkhar’s director, Sergei Spitsyn, and I awarded the men with small household-scale solar power systems that they can use in their off-grid home and in the summer herding camps in Argut.
Thanks to you, The Altai Project’s supporters, for your ongoing interest. These trips are always inspiring, energizing, and a great use of our limited resources. I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the Weeden Foundation’s targeted support of travel to Altai.