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    Pastoralists and Predators in Alai: Political Ecology of Wildlife Management in Kyrgyzstan

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    The study is devoted to the human-environmental relationships in the post-socialist period of Kyrgyzstan. It addresses the human-wildlife conflicts using the example of the Alai Valley in the south of the country. Environmental and climatic characteristics of this highland valley provide suitable conditions for pastoralism and serve as habitat for wildlife. In recent decades, the natural landscape of the region came under increasing international attention with regard to nature conservation, sustainable land management and development projects. Historically, pastoralism has played a significant role for the economy of Kyrgyzstan. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the collapse of state agricultural infrastructure facilities, veterinary care, loss of markets, and privatisation of the agricultural sector of the economy and other factors have led to a major downfall in the animal husbandry industry. The number of sheep and goats decreased from ten million in 1990 to four million in 2000. Nevertheless, pastoralism has considerable importance to the national economy and remains as the crucial income source for rural livelihoods in Kyrgyzstan. The post-socialist period of Kyrgyzstan has faced rapid socio-economic and political transformation which has resulted in changes not only to local livelihoods, but also in livestock husbandry, nature protection and wildlife management. In recent decades many pastoralists often complain about the increase in livestock depredation by wild predators. It is taking place despite the presence of state sponsored predator-control activity. From another side, there are public concerns about wildlife conservation. With the engagement of many environmental NGOs and mass-media, wildlife management issues have quickly become highly politicised in Kyrgyzstan. Becoming a Party to several global environmental conventions has increased the realisation of many projects funded by external donor organisations, and the implementation of their obligations for wildlife conservation, together, have substantially raised the profile of wildlife management in Kyrgyzstan at the international level. Moreover, since the independence of Kyrgyzstan, the territory of Protected Areas has increased by three times. Protected Areas are crucial to wildlife conservation and are promoted by the nature conservation community as a beneficial measure to the mitigation of human-wildlife conflicts. Despite this fact, livestock depredation by wild predators generates conflicts and has become a serious conservation issue. The study aims to better understand human-wildlife interrelationships in connection with pastoralism, protected areas and wildlife management in Kyrgyzstan. Wildlife related conflicts are analysed to determine the status of livestock depredation and to explore its linkages with rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation concerns in the Republic. The project design emphasises different utilisation strategies for the same area of rangelands, including the provision of fodder resources, wildlife habitat area, livestock grazing, and other uses by humans. Additionally, the focus of this study is directed towards a historical aspect of the region in relation to the development processes in the Alai Valley and use of its natural resources