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How a Hunting Reserve Became a Snow Leopard Sanctuary

How a Hunting Reserve Became a Snow Leopard Sanctuary

A couple of months ago there was a turning point in the history of the snow leopards of Kyrgyzstan; President Almazbek Atambayev ordered a former trophy hunting concession to be turned into a fully protected wildlife sanctuary. 


Hidden in the northern Tian Shan Mountains, the sanctuary named Shamshy will serve as a natural habitat for the cats and their prey in order to fight their extinction.


This particular part of Kyrgyzstan serves more of a purpose than simply a home for the snow leopards. As migratory animals, the area acts as a pathway from Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan through to Karakoram and Hindu Kush ranges. As the animals travel through the regions they are able to mate with snow leopards from other populations to strengthen the overall gene pool.


President Atambayev’s decision came just in time as the rate of illegal hunting of the snow leopard’s main food source, ibex and argali, was severely depleting supplies. The animals, which are wild relatives of goats and sheep, are hunted for their impressive curved horns.


 At present it is estimated no more than 500 snow leopards reside in Kyrgyzstan, a mere 10% of the worldwide total and half the population estimated 20 years previously. This is due, in part, to hunting laws being unregulated and many permits being issued ‘off the books’.


Despite this, the snow leopard is seen as a sacred animal by the Kyrgyz, naming their first leader Barsben, or ‘Master of Leopards’. President Atambayev is quoted as saying, “Anyone who shoots a snow leopard shoots his own people. Anyone who sells snow leopard skins sells his own land.” Wise words in our book.


We’d like to thank the Kyrgyz government; local and international conservation NGOs, such as the Snow Leopard Foundation of Kyrgyzstan; the Snow Leopard Trust; and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, a British charity that provides funding and research support for international endangered wildlife projects. For without your help this change may have not become a reality. 


We would also like to thank National Geographic for alerting us to these amazing developments.



Have you helped with the conservation of Snow Leopards? Share your story #GreatVodkaForGood



Snow Leopard Vodka is perfect for a classic martini, served on the rocks and in premium cocktails.

Snow Leopard Trust

The Snow Leopard Trust is the world's largest organization in the study and protection of the endangered Snow Leopard. 15% of all our profits go directly to the Trust to help them on their mission.

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