First WWF/GEF project is aimed at conservation of big cats in Russia
For the first time a GEF project will be implemented by WWF. The budget totals about 60 million dollars, with more than 12.5 million contributed by GEF. According to GEF rules, the rest of the budget must come from national sources at federal and regional government bodies and other partners. The co-funding of WWF is 10 million US dollars.
GEF is an international financial mechanism established by countries in order to solve global ecological problems.
Until recently, GEF projects could be implemented only through specific international organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank and some others. In June 2013, WWF became the first non-governmental organization accredited as the executing agency of GEF. Soon after, WWF together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation prepared the project application for the conservation of big cats and their habitats in Russia.
The new project will be one of the largest projects on rare species conservation on the territory of Russia. During the coming year, WWF will prepare the detailed project proposal and then throughout 4 years will carry it out in cooperation with government bodies, scientific institutions, business, NGOs and local communities.
Thanks to this project, WWF will support the development of the system of protected nature areas in the Far East, Altay-Sayan and Northern Caucasus. There are three species of the rare big cats in these regions: the Amur tiger, snow leopard, and leopard (Amur and Persian subspecies). The project will get the local communities involved into the cooperation on sustainable management of the protected areas and create new jobs. It will also support the improvement of legislation and law enforcement in the sphere of biological resources usage both at federal and local levels. The project will help to develop international collaboration to monitor big cat populations, combat poaching and illegal trade.
“The accreditation of WWF by GEF Council as the executing agency definitely confirms the role and possibilities of WWF in the nature conservation,” said Victoria Elias, Conservation Director at WWF-Russia.
The decision to include NGOs in the list of executing agencies is based on the fact that they have their own expert potential both for preparation and implementation of projects, and they can get additional resources and provide high level and quality of task performance in their professional spheres.
“We are so glad that the first WWF/GEF project is the Russian one. It is aimed at the conservation of charismatic species of the big cats of our country. Big work is awaiting us – we must work out a detailed program and implement it. We depend on efficient cooperation and collaboration at all levels in order to achieve the ultimate goal – to save the Russian wildlife,” adds Victoria Elias.
WWF started Amur tiger conservation projects in Russia as early as in 1994. Later the Fund took part in the development of national conservation strategies concerning both the Amur tiger (2010) and other cats: Amur leopard (1999) and snow leopard (2002). WWF also participated in the organization of the International Forum on Tiger Conservation in St. Petersburg in 2010. The new project will help fulfil the international commitments taken by the Russian Federation at this Forum.