Gilgit-Baltistan is a region that demonstrates like no other how our lives depend on intact nature around us. And it shows how vulnerable that makes certain parts of the world.
As elusive as this big cat is, for the agro-pastoralist population of the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, snow leopards are a real threat. Here we meet the NGO that became the global pioneer of developing a livestock insurance scheme connected to this vulnerable species, which many countries adapted since. So what lies in the center of the conflict, and how can such an insurance scheme lead to the conservation of the snow leopard and at the same time support local livelihoods?
Although rather small in size, Nepal is home to an outstanding diversity of plants, animals and ecosystems in a remarkable physical setting. The altitude varies between 60 m ASL in the subtropical Terai Arc to Mount Everest at 8849 metres. Within this range and diverse habitats, Nepal hosts almost 12,000 different species of flora, iconic animals such as the snow leopard, clouded leopard, bengal tiger, one-horned rhino, asian elephant, red panda and the pangolin. But what about those species and areas which don’t make the spotlight? Friends of Nature Nepal, a small team of passionate conservationists has been venturing into uncharted territories, rediscovering long-unrecorded species and stands up for the protection of many underrepresented or neglected species.
Many of the world’s conflict zones are located in places where biodiversity is high. The Caucasus, being one of the world´s 36 biodiversity hotspots, is no exception.
‘Conservation and peacemaking has the potential to go hand in hand’. We took away this lesson from our journey in the Caucasus, where we met leading organisations and individuals in Georgia and Armenia working for the protection of the endangered Caucasian leopard.
As we see from the example of the Caucasian leopard, aside from all other things, biodiversity needs to also be protected from the consequences of armed conflict. However, it also offers an opportunity for people to come together, resolve conflicts, join in the protection of shared natural heritage and ultimately, build peace. And maybe, the Caucasian leopard can lead the way on this journey.
In 2017, the villagers of Hovtashen in the Ararat region of Armenia started noticing a strange phenomenon. The white storks they lived so closely with were not so white anymore – covered by a thick black substance, they were struggling to fly. As researchers and conservationists received the first alarm, they raced to help these iconic birds. Six years later, as we visit the Ararat plain, we see these contaminated storks with our own eyes and learn that putting an end to this disaster is still far away. But where does the substance come from and how can the contamination be stopped?
In our two months in Georgia, we have met many people who work in the field of nature conservation: protected area staff including rangers and visitor centre specialists, environmental NGOs, the government’s Agency of Protected Areas and activists to get an insight into nature conservation in Georgia has developed since the collapse of the Soviet Union and, most importantly, the way forward for the future.
In this article, we want to cover three important pillars in Georgian nature conservation which we have not specifically covered so far: funding with a special focus on the Caucasus Nature Fund, the political agenda to enlarge the protected area network made possible by the Agency of Protected Areas, and the crucial work of rangers.