Highlights from a 2015 trip to Altai


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 met briefly with amazing fledgling entrepreneurs funded by the Citibank micro-lending program.


Standing next to a root cellar

Highlights included:

* Participate in a learning session about the complexities of the proposed Karakul mine project

* Got the latest updates on recent snow leopard numbers (steady or rising!)

* Witnessing the start of a comprehensive trans-boundary argali survey

* 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. (UPD: has not happened as of 2022)

Lastly, while in Kosh-Agach, I had the privilege of meeting two former poachers now gainfully employed by the nearby protected areas as rangers working on snow leopard monitoring and conservation. Our local conservation biologist 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, dear 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.