What we do
Regions
Премия рунета 2017

Returning the tiger to Kazakhstan

ZHOLBARYS. THE PREDATOR THAT VANISHED INTO THE PAST

The Caspian tiger, sometimes also referred to as Turanian or Transcaucasian, is an extinct subspecies that inhabited the area from Turkey to western China, including the Caucasus, Iran and Central Asia. There is evidence of these tigers’ huge size (up to 224 cm in length and body weight of up to 240 kg) and endurance: the animals easily walked up to 100 km per day. The tigers lived in tugai forests along river valleys. A source of water was a must for their habitat. It is therefore no wonder that their permanent habitat at the northern edge of their natural range was Lake Balkhash, as well as the shores of the Amu Darya and other rivers. Due to its variegated coloration, this predator was reliably camouflaged among the reeds and thickets.

However, the cold, snowy winters posed them great hardship. Some individuals would seek out places with the least snow cover and make a den, while others went for long hikes of hundreds of kilometers, approached cities and often died at the hands of a person who saw danger in a tired and hungry predator.

WHY DID THE TIGER DISAPPEAR IN KAZAKHSTAN?

By the second half of the 20th century, the tiger in Kazakhstan had been completely exterminated. The main reason for its extinction was the plowing of the most fertile floodplain lands for cotton fields, which drove ungulates, staples of the tiger's diet, to nearly disappear from these areas. At the end of the 19th century, tigers were deliberately killed to ensure the safety of farmers. The last documented sightings of tigers in Central Asia were recorded in the early 1970s.

CAN THE STRIPED CAT EVER COME BACK?

It was demonstrated through research that the Caspian and Amur tiger populations are genetically virtually identical. This allows for the possibility of restoring the extinct population, and World Wide Fund for Nature Russia (WWF Russia) initiated this project. The idea of ​​reintroducing tigers in Central Asia using the Amur tiger from the Russian Far East was being discussed for ten years. The government of Kazakhstan supported the project back in 2010. But in order to start the program, it was needed to first conduct scientific research, to determine the possible reintroduction sites and to study the possible results of the reintroduction under various scenarios.

This work took almost 10 years, and finally, in September 2017, a Memorandum was signed between WWF and the Government of Kazakhstan on the implementation of a tiger restoration program in Central Asia.

THE TIGER’S NEW "HOUSE"

On June 27, 2018, the long-awaited Ile-Balkhash State Natural Reserve, a protected area of over 415 thousand hectares, was introduced into the system of protected natural areas of Kazakhstan. The territory of the reserve includes a part of the Ili River delta, floodplain, saxaul forests and wetlands on the southern coast of Lake Balkhash. An ecosystem suitable for tiger habitat will be restored on the territory of the new reserve. The reintroduction program includes the protection of the existing wildlife and the restoration of populations of ungulates (Bukhara deer, roe deer, wild boar), which form the basis of the tiger’s diet, as well as kulan, saiga and gazelle.

WHEN WILL THE FIRST TIGERS BE BROUGHT TO ILE-BALKHASH?

The first delivery of Amur tigers to the reserve is not expected until 2024, and in 50 years, at least 150 tigers might live in Kazakhstan according to scientists.

WWF published a study on the prospects for restoring the tiger population in Kazakhstan and, together with national specialists, prepared a program for the restoration of this endangered species, having held a broad discussion both with leading tiger specialists from around the world and with relevant ministries and departments of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

According to the results of the study, there is an area of ​​415 thousand hectares, which is suitable for tiger habitat in the delta of the Ili River to the south of Lake Balkhash.

Intermediate documents produced in the process of preliminary assessment with respect to recovery of Turanian tigers in Central Asia

From the Greetings of Prime-Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan Masimov K.K to participants of the 6th h Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development of Asia – Pacific region:

In the process of development Republic of Kazakhstan has to overcome a variety of important ecological problems. We had been able to solve a significant part of the most pressing environmental problems in the last years. We voluntarily closed the nuclear testing ground, setting an example for a safer world. Together with neighboring countries, we were able to collaborate on cross-border basin of the Aral and Caspian Seas. We have restored in the interests of the population and ecology of the Northern Aral Sea. In a challenging period of the state, we have rehabilitated and minimize the effects of many accumulated over decades of «historical» pollution and depressed areas. The program of provision of population with clean drinking water, adopted a new government program «Zhasyl Damu — Green Development successfully had been implemented. We have approved the Concept of the country’s transition to sustainable development for the period until 2024. It has set benchmarks and targets for sustainable development. Kazakhstan has also adopted a package of commitments in the context of the Millennium Development Goals and steadily carries them out. Moreover, Kazakhstan acceded to the Copenhagen agreement and adopted voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions up to 15% by 2020 and up to quarter — by 2050 with respect to 1992. Economic Development Strategy to 2020 has also recently entered into force, based on the principles of «Green Growth», provides the creation of a system of resource saving, energy efficiency and renewable. Kazakhstan is contributing to this process in finding solutions and integration efforts of all parties — we have proposed initiative «Green Bridge» — «the Astana Initiative» as a further development of the Seoul Initiative «Green Growth».

All this is done, mainly due to budgetary funds. In order to attract private sector funds, we have begun to introduce public-private partnership, and extend this scheme in the environmental sector. For the purposes of pilot testing was elected the territory of Balkhash-Alakol basin where the Government implemented a program of sustainable development in the region.

Kazakhstan posters on the Tiger Summit