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Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species: Exploring the Role of Cultural Keystone Species in Central Asia

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  • Snow Leopard Conservancy

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Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species:
Exploring the Role of Cultural Keystone
Species in Central Asia
Final Report
(Grant 2005-2019)
Submitted to:
The Christensen Fund
394 University Ave. Palo Alto, CA 94301
Submitted by:
Snow Leopard Conservancy / Cat Action Treasury
18030 Comstock Ave, Sonoma, CA 95476
Prepared by:
Rodney Jackson and Nandita Jain
Date: January 18, 2006
Reproduction of this publication for educational or other non-commercial purposes is authorised without
prior written permission. However, we request that you fully acknowledge such use. Suggested citation:
The Snow Leopard Conservancy. 2007. Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species: Exploring the Role of Cultural
Keystone Species in Central Asia. Final Report (Grant 2005-2019) submitted to The Christensen Fund by SLC/
Cat Action Treasury, Sonoma, California. 47 pages.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.............................................................................................2
2. INTRODUCTION.........................................................................................................4
3. SUMMARY OF PROJECT BACKGROUND, GOAL, OBJECTIVES AND ACTIVITIES
........................................................................................................................................4
4. ACTIVITY REPORTING..............................................................................................5
4.1. Planning Trip ..........................................................................................................5
4.2. Literature Review....................................................................................................6
4.3. Methodology...........................................................................................................6
4.4. Field Mission - Key Findings.................................................................................9
4.4.1. Ecologically Important Species................................................................................................ 11
4.4.2. Cultural Keystone Species – Applying the Concept ..............................................................13
4.4.3. Culturally Important Species .................................................................................................... 16
4.4.4. Hunting – A clash between cultural traditions and conservation?....................................... 27
5. IMPLEMENTATION PRE-PROPOSAL OUTLINE....................................................32
6. EVALUATION...........................................................................................................33
APPENDICES...............................................................................................................36
1. List of Outputs
2. Field Itinerary
3. Key Participants and Persons Consulted
4. References
5. Photographs
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1.Concepts in Ecologically Important Species
Table 2.Culturally Important Plant Species
Table 3.Culturally Important Animal Species
LIST OF BOXES
Box 1 Some observations on PhotoVoice
Box 2. Elements in determining cultural keystone species
Box 3: What I value in my natural environment – samples of narratives from PhotoVoice
Box 4: Hunting Traditions of Ancestors
Box 5: Ages of Marco Polo Sheep in Kyrgyz
Box 6 Marco Polo Song – written by Jaanbai Oljochiev, Madian, Murghab District.
Box 7: Risolai piri palavon (Rules of the Hunting Master)
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1. Executive Summary
In October 2005 the Snow Leopard Conservancy received a grant for a project entitled
“ Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species: Exploring the Role of Cultural Keystone Species in
Central Asia” Activities commenced in 2005 and the project was given a no-cost extension until
December 31 2006.
Ecologists recognize that keynote species, such as snow leopards, play important roles in
determining ecological functioning and integrity. Similarly, in human cultures, there are plants
and animals that form the contextual underpinnings of a culture, as reflected in their roles in
language, ceremonies, narratives, diet, and medicine. In a region undergoing fundamental social,
political and economic change, we believe concepts, such as cultural keystone species, that are
rooted in cultural and social contexts can play a role in positively transforming tensions and
conflicts between development and conservation.
Specific project objectives were to:
1) Explore and document the role of charismatic, keystone species like snow leopards, Marco
Polo sheep, ibex, and brown bear as cultural icons to selected mountain communities and
cultures;
2) Identify, explore and document other cultural keystone species (e.g., trees, medicinal and
food plants) that play a role in the underpinnings of the same communities and cultures;
3) Generate and disseminate creative approaches, based on cultural keystone species, to
positively link biodiversity conservation, strengthening cultural identities and community
development; and
4) Outline and share a 3-4 year multi-stakeholder program for supporting environmental
stewardship and sustainable livelihoods in ways that revive and sustain the role of traditional
knowledge among stakeholders, including pastoralists, other natural resource dependent
communities and Marco Polo hunting concessions.
Project activities included: conducting a literature review; holding planning meetings with key
resource persons/organizations in Tajikistan; preparation of a participatory methodology for
field-based investigations; field-based investigations in the Gorno Badakshan region of
Tajikistan; preparation, review and dissemination of final reports and outputs; and preparation of
a concept for a 3-4 year multi-stakeholder program for fostering environmental stewardship and
sustainable livelihoods.
Key Findings included:
Relationships between cultural identities and critical species are important but complex. For
example, as residents of the Pamir, the Kyrgyz have a long tradition of hunting manifested in
folklore, language and art with rules to govern numbers to be killed and how. However, poor
economic conditions, widespread access to guns and lax enforcement of regulations have led
local residents and newcomers, such as military personnel, to hunt Marco Polo sheep beyond
the limits prescribed in Kyrgyz traditions and customs.
Current patterns of animal hunting and plant extraction plants (both legal and illegal) are
having negative impacts to the long-term viability of ecologically and culturally important
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species in the Pamir, as well as ecosystems. In particular, illegal hunting of Marco Polo sheep
in Tajikistan and neighboring Afghanistan poses a significant threat to the survival of the
species.
Loss of key fauna and flora, such as Marco Polo sheep and teresken, has significant
implications on local livelihoods. In a region with relatively few economic opportunities,
promising activities such as tourism will be negatively affected by the loss of attractions, such
as wildlife, and increased land degradation.
PhotoVoice, and similar participant-led explorations and learning exercises clearly energize
individuals and communities, and have the potential to convert the energy into livelihood and
conservation actions. Such tools do, however, need to be integrated into more comprehensive
planning frameworks and conducted to influence policy-makers.
Objectives 3 and 4 were assessed by the extent to which specific ideas and methods were shared,
along with the level and variety of demand for outputs like the PhotoVoice methodology. Project
partners were very excited about this highly participatory tool, which will be further developed
in order to make it even more applicable to local conditions and levels of expertise with regard to
participatory planning and action. Participants from MSDSP have already shared the field
methods with their colleagues, and SLC-India has successfully used PhotoVoice as part of its
annual evaluation of community conservation and tourism.
Measuring change in local attitudes and actions toward cultural or biodiversity cannot be
measured within a short time frame. Nonetheless a framework for ongoing participatory
monitoring and evaluation has been developed, in which locally derived indicators, such as the
nature and number of locally-initiated actions will be used to assess contributions to conservation
of diversity during the implementation phase. Encouraging news continues to come from
Murghab where META has undertaken a number of environmental education activities spurred
on in part by their participation in the summer’s activities. A high priority is to identify local
persons who can both train and monitor future initiatives. At the onset of the next phase of
implementation, it is proposed to provide local participants with further training. This will
further serve to highlight potential opportunities, constraints and success factors. The
Implementation Pre-Proposal submitted to The Christensen Fund covers these items.
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2. Introduction
In October 2005 the Snow Leopard Conservancy received a grant for a project entitled
“ Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species: Exploring the Role of Cultural Keystone Species in
Central Asia” Activities commenced in 2005 and the project was given a no-cost extension until
December 31 2006.
Under the terms of the grant, narrative and financial reports have been prepared (the financial
report is provided separately as Appendix 4). The purpose of this narrative report is to provide
an overall review of project activities and findings, and a brief evaluation of outcomes. As such
the report does not contain detailed field notes, interviews or the PhotoVoice results. Instead
these have been listed in Appendix 1 and are available on request.
3. Summary of Project Background, Goal, Objectives and
Activities
Ecologists recognize that keynote species, such as snow leopards, play important roles in
determining ecological functioning and integrity. Similarly, in human cultures, there are plants
and animals that form the contextual underpinnings of a culture, as reflected in their roles in
language, ceremonies, narratives, diet, and medicine. In a region undergoing fundamental social,
political and economic change, we believe concepts, such as cultural keystone species, that are
rooted in cultural and social contexts can play a role in positively transforming tensions and
conflicts between development and conservation.
The purpose of this project is to identify specific ways by which selected local communities can
re-evaluate and then blend their own set of historical (traditional) values, folklore and local
environmental symbols using the keystone species concept as an entry point. Based upon past
work in mountain communities, and in light of contemporary realities following dissolution of
the Soviet-imposed economic and social system, we believe that this approach can help
communities to forge their own unique set of sustainable livelihoods.
Specific project objectives:
1) Explore and document the role of charismatic, keystone species like snow leopards, Marco
Polo sheep, ibex, and brown bear as cultural icons to selected mountain communities and
cultures;
2) Identify, explore and document other cultural keystone species (e.g., trees, medicinal and
food plants) that play a role in the underpinnings of the same communities and cultures;
3) Generate and disseminate creative approaches, based on cultural keystone species, to
positively link biodiversity conservation, strengthening cultural identities and community
development; and
4) Outline and share a 3-4 year multi-stakeholder program for supporting environmental
stewardship and sustainable livelihoods in ways that revive and sustain the role of traditional
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knowledge among stakeholders, including pastoralists, other natural resource dependent
communities and Marco Polo hunting concessions. The plan would be implemented by a
national NGO or a consortium of NGOs working with government and possibly academia.
Emphasis will be placed upon: fostering meaningful links between organizations, individuals
and disciplines; and capacity-building for cultural conservation and natural resource
management or restoration by encouraging sustainable livelihood enterprises that supplement
existing agricultural and pastoral activities.
Primary project activities:
A literature review covering the concept of cultural keystone species, field applications of the
concept, representations of key species in Asian/mountain/pastoral communities and current
and past natural resource management systems;
Planning meetings with key resource persons/organizations in Europe and Central Asia;
Final site selection for field investigations;
Finalize a participatory methodology for field-based investigations;
Field-based investigations at 4 primary GBAO sites/communities of iconic cultural keystone
species;
Preparation, review and dissemination of final reports and outputs based on the field
investigations; and
Preparation and circulation to partner organizations, potential donors and others, of a concept
for a 3-4 year multi-stakeholder program for fostering environmental stewardship and
sustainable livelihoods.
4. Activity Reporting
4.1. Planning Trip
Nandita Jain, Project Co-Investigator visited Tajikistan in January 2006, with the following
objectives:
Introduce the project to key organizations, agencies and individuals;
Identify and establish technical and logistical sources of support; and
Collect relevant literature for the project.
She visited Dushanbe and Khorog, and had planned to visit and meet with staff at the Centre for
Development and Environment at the University of Berne, Switzerland. Unfortunately, bad
weather in GBAO resulted in Ms. Jain missing her scheduled flight to Europe, and the trip to
CDE had to be cancelled. In Tajikistan meetings were held with a range of organizations (e.g.
ACTED, MSDSP, Aga Khan Humanities Project, GBAO Administration) and individuals
working in biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage, handicrafts, tourism and community
development. Local experts were identified for the field investigation, and META agreed to
provide logistical support. A detailed trip report was prepared for the purposes of planning the
field investigation, covering team composition, logistical arrangements and next steps.
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4.2. Literature Review
We conducted a desk-based review of literature relating to the project area’s setting, its resources
and people, keystone and allied concepts used in promoting biodiversity conservation, and
information on petroglyphs or the other representations of such keynote species in Asian
mountain and pastoral communities. We consulted key resource persons and in-country
organizations via email to prepare a list potential field sites and elements for selection that
characterize or describe key ethnic or cultural groups, geographical and ecological attributes,
livelihood development opportunities, biotic and cultural threats, and access to representative
areas.
We obtained digital copies of all relevant CDE (Centre for Development and Environment,
Berne, Switzerland) documents covering the GBAO, and we contacted other European experts or
researchers for advice and information. Co-investigator Nandita Jain visited Central Asia in
January 2006 to meet with key persons from MSDSP, the Aga Khan Humanities Program,
ACTED, META, and the Pamir Biological Institute, among others. We completed a wide-
ranging desk and internet review of available literature, the most notable of which is a book on
GBAO by Frank Bliss (2006). The outputs from these activities resulted in several in-house
status and resource reports helpful toward final site selection and refining of our participatory
methodology for the summer’s field-based investigations.
4.3. Methodology
A key activity for the project was to develop and field-test a participatory field-based
methodology to explore the concept of cultural keystone species and similar concepts. Our
methodology aimed to be creative, innovative, transferable and at the same time inclusive of
different perspectives and disciplinary frameworks. PhotoVoice was included as an innovative
approach to learning, inclusion and expression and to be developed as part of an overall
participatory planning and management strategy. The complete methodology, including the
application and assessment of PhotoVoice, is available as a separate output (see Appendix 1 for a
list of project outputs). Here we focus on key lessons learned and recommendations emerging
from the field investigation.
Our intention throughout the field investigation was to be as participatory as possible, seeking
diverse perspectives and using a variety of learning tools. However, we recognized that for the
subject under exploration that a balance would have to be struck between working with groups
which would foster consensus and diversity, and working with individuals who would generate
detail, insight and richness. In keeping with the principle of collaboration, the field team was
multi-disciplinary with expertise covering natural and social sciences, had members from local
organizations (including three TCF grantees) and was surprisingly international (five
nationalities!).
Team members were as follows:
Dr. Rodney Jackson – Project Manager and Investigator, Director – SLC-USA
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Nandita Jain – Co-Investigator, Advisor SLC-USA
Ubaidullah Mamadiev – Logistics Manager and Guide, President - META
Mairambek - Translator and Guide, META
The above persons participated throughout the field investigation
Dr. Dovutsho Navruzshoev – Expert Botanist, University of Central Asia/Pamir Biological
Institute
Dastanbui Mamadsaidov, Social Scientist, Communications Officer, University of Central
Asia
Rinchen Wangchuk – Field Director, SLC India- Trust
Marielle Leseur – Small Business Advisor, MSDSP
Nilufar Saboieva – Translator, Program Assistant, Land Use and Management Project, GTZ
Suyn - Culture Officer, ACTED, Murghab
The above persons participated in parts of the field investigation
Balancing capacity building and generating project outputs – Although building capacity in
new concepts and methods was not specifically listed as a project objective, for SLC capacity
growth is an important organizational goal and is integrated throughout its work. Working on a
new concept with new learning tools was an opportunity to develop skills not only of SLC’s
partner organizations, but also within the organization. While this was achieved as seen in the
feedback from team members “We gained knowledge about new topics, and experienced a
change in attitudes; PhotoVoice was an opportunity to gain and improve communication skills;
We liked and learned from methods such as time-lines, trend-lines, etc”, more time for training
and subsequent application would have generated richer, more detailed knowledge on the
relationships between culture and biodiversity conservation.
Participatory processes – We initially had intended having numerous group based discussions
and activities that represent a diversity of perspectives, as well as generate some level of
consensus that would be useful for planning and implementing future activities. Given the
constraints of time, language, availability and location group activities were not always possible
to the extent that we would have liked. It was also evident that the subject matter did not always
lend itself to investigation using traditional participatory approaches since there were clearly
some individuals who were more knowledgeable than others. Although, we remain satisfied
with the balance that was achieved in the time available, we recognize that more group
discussions would have been ideal. We were, however, encouraged by the application of
PhotoVoice which lends itself equally well as a learning tool for both groups and individuals.
PhotoVoice – SLC is committed to exploring new tools for planning and managing community
stewardship initiatives. With the field testing of PhotoVoice (PV), it is SLC’s goal to offer a
new tool for local organizations as well as adding to its existing tool-kit of participatory planning
methods. In PV we see opportunities to combine new technologies such as digital cameras with
more traditional concepts such as visual representation and expression. PV was conducted in a
variety of settings, with individuals, groups, children, women, and with people who had a range
of prior expertise with cameras. A small exhibition was prepared at short notice in time for the
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TCF trustees visit to GBAO in August. This is currently housed in the small cultural museum in
Murghab. A more comprehensive review of our application of PV is available in the detailed
methodology.
Whether in the hands of individuals or groups, PV emerged as a powerful tool to energize and
empower people to express ideas, experience and knowledge. Participants were excited to use
digital cameras and with the immediacy of the results, to learn new skills and have opportunities
to share their world with others (Box 1 and Appendix 5).
Box 1. Some observations on PhotoVoice
“The process gives confidence to participants and opportunities to explore new ideas and issues
PV gave an unbiased perspective of local voices, the process was led by the photographer/participant
The process generated an individual voice (as facilitators often we seek consensus),
It is very thought provoking – this is possible in pictures both in their interpretation and in taking the
pictures themselves
PV provides a long-lasting testimony, and allows sharing with the outside world”
However, with its relative instant results and visual impact there may be a tendency to conduct
PV exercises as an end in themselves without looking at opportunities for collective action.
While there is clearly value in PV as a means to share ideas perspectives, concepts and even
dreams within participants’ communities and a wider audience, PV can also play a critical role to
in more comprehensive planning and action frameworks. In future activities, we will focus on
the role of PV in planning approaches such as Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action, as
a tool for monitoring and evaluation and a catalyst for action among key decision-makers such as
government officials and policy-makers.
“Taking pictures was like having a rest. It made us feel very happy, but it is easier to take the
pictures than to explain why we took them. We would like many people to see these pictures,
especially in other countries since they can then learn about our lives: how we milk, look after
our animals and life in the Eastern Pamir. For our next investigation or set of pictures, we
would like to photograph wild animals, our beautiful mountains and marmots grazing!”
The above observation highlights a key feature of PV, the need to explore the reasons for taking
and selecting pictures but in ways that put participants at ease, are not intimidating and without
turning the process into an interrogation. It should be noted that it was only one group that
expressed difficulty in discussing their pictures, all the other participants were quite forthcoming
in presenting their explanations.
In reviewing the process, it evident that more attention needs to be paid to guiding and training
participants in the use of cameras, in better context setting for their work, and improving the
processes of photo selection, analysis and follow-up. Ensuring reliable and sufficient energy for
cameras, computers and other equipment will also be critical. During the field investigation,
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picture selection and analytical processes were often rushed due to limited energy supplies.
Portable solar cells and adapters for using car batteries are promising avenues to pursue in the
short-term. Beyond taking and selecting of pictures, we will have to consider how to integrate
cost-effective ways to share the process and results with larger and more diverse audiences.
Although laptop computers were very effective in sharing results quickly, only small groups
were able to participate in the process and therefore the numbers taking part were not as high as
we would have liked. Alternatives such as photographic displays can reach a wider audience,
but take time to prepare and critical momentum can be lost as a result. As PV is integrated into a
more collective planning process, we will need to consider how to best combine new
technologies, e.g. projectors with more traditional techniques such as portable photographic
displays, to make it a more inclusive process.
Finally, as we look to implementing a larger project, it is worth noting that there is limited
organizational capacity to plan and manage community-driven conservation and sustainable
livelihood activities. Not only are there very few organizations, but technically there is limited
experience in designing and facilitating small-scale conservation and linked livelihood initiatives.
4.4. Field Mission - Key Findings
We selected field study sites based upon a mix of socio-economic and environmental conditions
including:
Economic Factors: Does the species positively or negatively affect the human lifeway?
An example of the former might be a native rangeland plant highly prized as winter
fodder for livestock, a medicinal plant sought after in a distant urban center or a Marco
Polo sheep which attracts $25,000 in trophy hunting fees from wealthy foreigners.
Predators like the snow leopard or wolf that kill valuable livestock may be perceived as
species negatively affecting the livelihoods of local herders. On the other hand, tourism
operators may see these species as a potential asset to be nurtured and protected.
Ethnicity (embracing related differences in language, religion or custom): In broad terms,
one can separate the Pamir Mountains into the:
o Western Pamir (primarily Tajik and Shugni speakers, Ismaili farmers and herders
who live in more rugged terrain that is better suited to snow leopard and ibex).
o Eastern Pamir (primarily Kyrgyz speakers, Sunnis whose traditional livelihood
embraces herding and semi-nomadism, and who occupy more gently-rolling
terrain preferred by Marco Polo sheep and wolf).
Geographic location: As noted above, there are two distinct areas, the western and
eastern Pamirs with the two main settlements or administrative centers consisting of
Khorog and Murghab respectively, with outlying settlements of varying accessibility and
isolation.
Opportunities for subsequent support and follow-up – Managing local expectations after
any exploratory and planning activity are critical. Therefore factors such as on-going
support from partner organizations, or some level of support planned for the near future
were also considered.
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Ak-Kalama
Batchor & Bulunkul
Primar
y
Site
Secondar
y
Site
Seponj-Ravvid
Primary site:
Bulunkul, Murghab District – a settlement of about 30-40 households near to Yashi-kul and
Bulun-kul. Although in the eastern Pamir, most families are Pamiri and Shugni speakers, with
a few Kyrgyz households. Bulunkul’s households are primarily engaged in animal husbandry,
with some diversification into tourism with visitors mostly sent by META, and fishing. The
village is notable for its use and knowledge of medicinal plants with a number of men and
women engaged in herb collection.
Secondary sites:
Ak-Kalama, Murghab District – a summer pasture for Kyrgyz herders that lies within the Jarty
Gumbez hunting concession about 10km from the Afghan border. Between five to seven
families tend to their animals and those of the hunting concession operator. The settlement
occasionally receives tourists sent by META who stay with the families in their yurtas.
Batchor, Rushan District – a settlement of up to 30 households to the west of Yashi-kul of
Pamiri farmers and herders. Villagers have experienced incidents of snow leopard depredation,
mostly recently in January 2006. The village lies in the rugged terrain favored by snow
leopards and their primary prey, ibex.
Seponj and Ravvid, Rushan District – two neighboring villages located in the Bartang Valley
with a total of about 100 primarily Pamiri households. Seponj is home to a famous musician,
and both villages lie in ideal ibex and snow leopard habitat as do most settlements in the
Bartang valley.
Map showing the study sites
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4.4.1. Ecologically Important Species
As conservationists seek to protect biodiversity hotspots, they tend to devote considerable effort
toward identifying and evaluating plant or animal species playing important roles in determining
ecological functioning and integrity, or whose presence or absence may reflect the well-being of
the ecosystem in question.
Table 1. Concepts in Ecologically Important Species
Term Concept/Definition Examples Selected
References
Keystone
Species A species “whose impact on the
community or ecosystem is
disproportionately large relative to its
abundance”
Five major categories recognized
are predators and their prey
species; plant pollinators & seed
dispersers; hosts required for
reproduction; and habitat or
energy modifiers
Paine, 1969, Mills et
al. 1993; Power et
al. 1996
Indicator
Species An organism “whose characteristics
(e.g., presence or absence, population
density, dispersion, reproductive success)
are used as an index of attributes too
difficult, inconvenient, or expensive to
measure for other species or
environmental conditions of interest.”
closely linked predator-prey
species; species whose
abundance reflects local plant or
animal richness or diversity;
invasive species indicator of
ecosystem
Landres et al. (1988)
Umbrella
Species A species “whose conservation is
expected to confer protection to a large
number of naturally co-occurring
species.”
Used as tool for determining the
minimum size for protected
areas, selecting sites for
inclusion in reserve networks,
etc
Roberge &
Angelstam (2004);
Wilcox (1984)
Focal
Species “Taxa targeted for management through
vegetation-restoration efforts because
they are the ones most influenced by
threatening processes.”
single or set of species for
defining spatial & compositional
attributes that must be present
within a landscape (e.g., area-
sensitive, dispersal, resource &
ecological process limited taxa)
Lambeck (1997)
Flagship
Species Species chosen to represent “an
environmental cause, such as a critical
ecosystem or habitat in need of
conservation.”
Selected for vulnerability,
attractiveness or distinctiveness
in garnering public support &
acknowledgement (e.g., giant
panda, tiger, snow leopard,
Marco Polo sheep)
Simberloff, D.
(1998); Bowen-
Jones &. Entwistle
(2002)
Surrogate
Species Used as proxies for a wider range of
plants and animals, thus intended as
“shortcuts” for monitoring an ecosystem
or community with respect to
anthropogenic disturbances, population
change or richness of biodiversity.
Also used with terms like
indicator, umbrella and flagship Caro and O’Doherty
(1999)
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We reviewed the literature pertaining to species of ecological importance, including key terms
and their ecological significance and potential conservation context. Table 1, summarizes
commonly-accepted definitions for these terms along with their conceptual context. Keystone
species are considered to be plants or animals “whose impact on the community or ecosystem is
disproportionately large relative to its abundance,” there are in fact very few examples upon
which ecologists seem to agree. Among the species more often cited are the elephant, beaver and
American prairie dog all of whom physically modify their habitat and predators like the sea otter,
starfish and Canadian lynx that substantially affect prey abundance and/or community species
richness and trophic structure.
However, the Keystone Species Concept is difficult to apply to the real world, hardly surprising
given the inherent diversity of most ecological systems or the internal complexity of key
ecological processes and intra- or inter-species interactions, as well as the general lack of
knowledge about how these function. This holds especially true for ecosystems outside of
Europe, North America or the Tropics where very few (if any) long-term, in-depth ecological
studies have been undertaken.
Consequently, scientists have expanded their approach in defining what constitutes an
ecologically important species. For example, among the most important assumption being made
is the notion that a species may serve as a surrogate for conserving an entire ecosystems along
with its imbedded habitats, diverse plants and animals. This led researchers to focus on more
broadly defined, loosely applied terms or concepts, such as a surrogate or indicator species,
umbrella species, focal or keynote species and flagship species (to mention the main ones
appearing in the literature). For example, protected area managers and conservationists use these
concepts to promote the protection of a particular habitat or ecosystem (e.g., snow leopard, tiger,
giant panda), as indicators of environmental health (e.g., spotted owl and old-growth forests),
and as taxa indicators for predicting areas of high biodiversity. Not unexpectedly, ecologically
important species may also be endangered. Thus, the Red Data Book for Tajikistan lists 58
species of threatened invertebrates, 4 fish, 21 reptiles, 37 birds, 42 mammals, and 226 plant
species, of which 4 are fungi, 14 mosses and ferns, 27 trees and shrubs and 181 species of herbs.
We initiated this project by extending the keystone species concept from its biological
underpinning to the role they may play in human culture, for example in local language,
ceremonies, narratives, diet, and medicine. Garibaldi and Turner (2004) defined a Cultural
Keystone Species (CKS) as “culturally salient species that shape in a major way the cultural
identity of a people, as reflected in the fundamental roles these species have in diet, materials,
medicine, and/or spiritual practices.” As examples, they cited the western red-cedar (Thuja
plicata) and edible red-layer seaweed (Porphyra abbottiae), important plants used by the
Northwest Coast (First Nation) Indian culture of North America. Garibaldi and Turner suggested
that without such “cultural icons” the society these species supported would likely be completely
different. They described six elements that they considered best characterized a CKS (Box 2).
CKS are seen as an effective starting point for species and biodiversity conservation or even
habitat restoration, since they build upon traditional ecological knowledge and support locally
developed practices of resource use, including plants and animals protected by social taboo
(Colding et al. 2001). The concept appears to offer a means for reinforcing and studying the
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relationship of local communities to place, as well as for examining environmental change and
community resilience in the face of global warming or other environmental disturbances.
Box 2: Elements in Determining Cultural Keystone Species
1. Intensity, type, and multiplicity of use;
2. Naming and terminology in a language, including the use as seasonal or phenological indicators;
3. Role in narratives, ceremonies, or symbolism;
4. Persistence and memory of use in relationship to cultural change;
5. Level of unique position in culture, e.g., it is difficult to replace with other available native species; and
6. Extent to which it provides opportunities for resource acquisition from beyond the territory (e.g., for sale
or trading).
More importantly, several researchers thought that biodiversity conservation could be enhanced
if CKS also served as ecologically important species on the grounds that those communities who
embraced plants or animals as keystones should have the most reason for wanting to see
sustainable returns. Certainly, CKS are more likely to have the most direct influence on wildlife
species and their habitats, especially in remote areas like the Pamirs where government presence
is presently weak. It may even be possible to motivate local communities to restore habitats
where a particularly valued CKS has been overused or depleted. However, many CKS are listed
as threatened or endangered, and thus protected under national and international laws.
Alternative species or substitutes may be lacking or there may be a risk of introducing exotic or
invasive species to the site where none existed before.
During the 2006 summer field trip, we interviewed local experts, pastoralists, farmers and
government officials, made a field survey and reviewed the literature, to develop a list of
ecologically important plants and animals. We describe them in more detail in Section 4.4.3.
Some of the more widely recognized protected species are listed in the Ecologically Important
Species paper that is available separately, along with other papers in Appendix 1.
4.4.2. Cultural Keystone Species – Applying the Concept
The choice of the cultural keystone species concept as an entry point and tool for linking cultural
identities and biodiversity conservation in the Pamir was premised on a number of ideas and
observations.
The region is known for a number of iconic species, such as Marco Polo sheep and ibex that
have featured prominently in art, folklore and livelihoods for several centuries, and which also
are integral components of Pamiri ecosystems. However, dramatic social, economic and political
changes over the past hundred years have altered attitudes and practices regarding these species
with the result that questions and concerns hang over their future survival and even the
communities that live with them. Could species and associated cultural traditions and narratives,
ceremonies, songs and discourse that potentially play a unique role in shaping and characterizing
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
14
the identity of the people that rely on them, serve as a tool for biodiversity conservation and
sustainable livelihoods? Using the definition developed by Garibaldi and Turner (2004) – we
sought to identify and examine species that shape in a major way the cultural identity of a people
or peoples and the extent to which such a concept could foster community stewardship of
biodiversity and support sustainable livelihood strategies in the Pamir.
Key Findings
As pointed out by Garibaldi and Turner, an absolute quantification of the significance of a
particular cultural keystone species is not always possible, and this indeed is what we discovered.
Although quantification of the significance was difficult, and we made some attempt at doing
this, of more value was the exploration of elements given in Box 2, which did allow for a fairly
thorough review of what makes for cultural significance. We found that the process of
identifying species and constructing a picture of their history, representation and function offered
an opportunity for all parties to consider the value and role of species even though comparisons
between them were not made. At the same time we were concerned that the process not be
perceived as interrogation, but rather one of shared learning with value for all parties.
Consequently we had to be flexible and respectful in our relationships with local experts and
communities; if people did not want to participate or felt unqualified there was no point forcing a
response in order to get a ranking. Nonetheless, it was quite challenging and not always possible
to develop and implement practical methods that simultaneously sought to address community
needs and those of research, although tools such as PhotoVoice have the potential to jointly
frame questions and analyses and offer participants considerable freedom to explore ideas.
It was evident early on in the investigation that knowledge about the elements of what
determines cultural importance either did not exist or was unevenly held among community
members. Furthermore, living under the Soviet regime has clearly affected the extent to which
any previously held knowledge has been retained in the current population. We heard from even
elderly people that their parents knew about the rituals, folklore and uses associated with certain
species, but they themselves knew very little if anything at all. On the other hand there were
younger people, including women whose knowledge of and interest in medicinal plants, had
survived the dominance of modern medicine under Soviet times if only because such medicines
are no longer available or affordable and alternatives are needed. Access to technology, and
significant changes in social and economic systems have all contributed to how local populations
relate to biodiversity. Defining definitive trends is difficult with our limited knowledge base, but
it is evident that compared to pre-Soviet times there is currently less emphasis placed on the role
of species in rituals, etc., and more on the utilitarian value of species, e.g. food, medicines.
Overall, the concept of cultural keystone species as described by Garibaldi and Turner in their
context of Native American communities does not hold in the same way for communities in the
Pamir. There is no single or group of species that plays a pivotal role in shaping the lives of a
people and which if removed would result in a detrimental impact in their cultural identity. The
species that comes closest to the concept, and one that we would consider to be of cultural
significance rather than a keystone, is the Marco Polo sheep (discussed in more detail in Section
4.4.3.). This species is clearly associated with the Kyrgyz and their folklore, songs, and
livelihoods in the Eastern Pamir, but which would not appear to affect the Kyrgyz irrevocably if
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
15
it were to disappear. We say this in part since there seems to little or no widespread concern
over the levels of hunting on the part of local communities. It is possible that the ibex may be of
similar value to the Pamiri communities of the Western Pamir, but since our time in the region
was limited this would require further investigation. One interesting observation is that even for
the predominantly and relatively recently arrived (during the Soviet era) Pamiri community of
Bulunkul in the eastern Pamir , the Marco Polo sheep appeared to be of more cultural
significance to them rather than the ibex. This seems to indicate, albeit based on one observation,
that cultural values can change according to the landscape and the resources available and are not
necessarily determined by ethnicity alone
As mentioned earlier in this section, of value in the cultural keystone species concept was the
process of exploration rather than the quantification of significance. Exploring the concept has
allowed us to propose species of cultural significance or importance which is what we consider
the Marco Polo sheep to be, along with a number of other species including plants (see Section
4.4.3.). We generally agree with Garibaldi and Turner that in exploring culturally important
species does begin to reinforce the relationship of local communities to place, and serves as a
starting point for analyzing environmental change and community resilience in the face of such
change. The examples of Marco Polo sheep and teresken and their apparent over-harvesting and
implications for ecosystem health and livelihoods are cases in point.
Furthermore, learning about histories and patterns of use of particular species, along with the
practice of rituals and other cultural representations in legends, songs, etc, generates
opportunities to develop conservation and livelihood strategies that address sustainable use and
build upon cultural values.
Box 3. What I value in my natural environment – samples of narratives from PhotoVoice
“Ticken chop - This plant is useful not only for humanity, but also for wild animals. It is also useful for the
stomach diseases of wild animals. And people also eat this plant for headache and blood pressure. In
present times there is not as much of this plant as there used to be”
“Khipexk – this plant has medicinal meaning for the local population. It flowers in spring (towards the end
of June), its roots are useful. We put the plant into oil and use it for nose drops – let the oil stay there for
1-2 mins and then drip out. Many people know about this plant in Bulunkul. There is some demand from
outside for this plant (from Dushanbe and Tashkent) – companies will pay up to $3/kg but we are not
allowed to sell since we are in a national park. It is also a natural dye for leather – red. In the winter the
plant may be grazed.”
However, such approaches need to be placed within a larger context of stewardship of
ecosystems and habitats, and building capacities for community-based approaches in particular.
In a country and a region where conservation efforts are poorly-resourced and yet where
livelihoods are so dependent on natural resources, community-based approaches offer
opportunities to improve the efficiency of resource conservation in ways that also support
sustainable livelihood strategies.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
16
4.4.3. Culturally Important Species
Using the general descriptions provided by Garibaldi and Turner, the team identified and
assessed to the extent possible a number of plant and animal species with the potential to be
cultural keystone species and which would feature in a conservation and sustainable livelihoods
strategy. These species are summarized in the Tables below where each of the critical elements
of a cultural keystone species is described and rated for each identified species. In rating the
species, a number of opinions and perspectives were sought including team members and local
people, and the number given represents a consensus of views and not an average.
Notes to Tables of Culturally Important Species
Name of Species:
- Scientific name
- Local Names (English, Russian, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Shugni)
Ecological Significance: Ecological and/or functional role played by species, where this is
known.
Type of Use and Intensity of Harvesting:
Economic – species used for food or forage, medicine, dyes and to other economic benefit by
humans and/or their livestock; Social – species used in ceremonial or ritualistic practice or
folklore narratives.
S = species has a single use only; M = species has multiple uses
The rankings indicate the intensity of such use during the specified time period, as follows.
5 = yes, species used at very high rate
4 = yes, used at a high rate
3 = yes, used at a moderate rate
2 = yes, used at a low rate
1 = yes, used at a very low rate or infrequently
0 = no, not used
Persistence: Persistence and memory of use in the relationship to cultural or socio-economic
change. Note that awareness of a species may vary according to economic or political change
and its effect upon local customs and livelihoods. Some settlements exhibit stronger awareness
or values than others.
5 = yes, species has very strong position in cultural values, and is ubiquitous among communities
in different areas
4 = yes, species has strong cultural value
3 = yes, species has moderate cultural value
2 = yes, species has little cultural value, being rarely present in local awareness
1 = yes, species has very low value
0 = no, species has no value
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
17
Current Status: The present status and geographic distribution of the species, based on
information from the Tajikistan Red Data Book and/or expert knowledge
Tolerance to Harvesting: The relative degree to which the species can be harvested without
threatening its future existence, along with whether it can be substituted by another species or
product
5 = yes, species is very tolerant of being harvested or removed, and readily recovers
4 = yes, species is tolerant of being harvested or removed
3 = yes, species has moderate tolerance of being harvested or removed
2 = yes, species has a low tolerance to harvesting or removal
1 = yes, species is very intolerant of being harvested or removed
0 = no, species is intolerant to any use or harvesting
Substitutes: Whether the use can be replaced by another species or suitable substitute from a
cultural perspective.
Yes = substitutes are available; No = there are no other species or natural substitutes for the
current use(s)
Rating System: The values listed above were adapted from Garibaldi and Turner (2004). Note
that these have been generalized, since both perceptions and use according among individuals, as
well as cultural or ethnic groups, and even from one settlement to another with the same ethnic
grouping, depending upon the presence, absence or influence of individual persons with strong
traditional knowledge or understanding of the systems eroded or lost entirely during the Soviet
era, from the 1930’s through 1991.
For the purposes of this study we considered uses according to the periods of time defined by the
dominant socio-political system in place, as follows:
H = historical period, prior to Soviet influence in GBAO
S = period with strong Soviet influence, from the early 1930’s through the dissolution of the
USSR in 1991 (used where appropriate)
C = contemporary period
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 18
Table 1. Culturally Important Plant Species
Species Local Names Ecological
Significance Economic Uses
& Intensity Social Uses &
Intensity Persistence
of Tradition Current
Status Tolerance to
Harvesting Substitutes
Juniperus
schugnanica
(trunk,
branches,
needles)
Archa (Kyrgyz),
ambrkhts
(Shugni);
mozhzhevelnik
(Russian)
Prevention
soil erosion,
wildlife food,
cover &
nesting
habitat
Timber (house
construction)
fuelwood
[historic]
fuel = 5 (0)
timber = 5 (0)
Burials (protect
body) & “New
Year” tree
burial = 4 (1)
tree = 0 (5)
Some stories,
Incense:
H = 5; C = 1-3
H = 5
C = 3 Very rare,
highly
depleted
Very low
(extremely
slow
growing, does
not reseed
naturally,
climatic
change &
grazing
effects)
None
Anaphalis
virgata
(stem, flowers)
Ysyryk
(Kyrgyz);
Strakh
(Shugni);
Anafalis
(Russian).
Not known Vitamin C &
medicine for
stomach, liver,
jaundice & bone
complaints
H = 5; C = 2-3
Incense for
purification prior to
traveling (good luck
& health)
H = 5; C = 3
H = 5
C = 3
[use elders =
5; by youth
= 1]
Uncommon Moderate
high
None
Rhodiola
heterodonta
(rootstock)
Altyn tamyr
(Kyrgyz);
Tiloiviesh
(Shugni);
Rodiola,
zolotoy koren
(Russian).
Prevents soil
erosion Medicine
(energy &
nervousness
tonic, stomach
problems)
H = 0; C = 5
Dye (red) for
cloth & pelt
H = 5; C = 2
None H = 2
C = 5 Sparsely
distributed Very low
(involves
removal of
rootstock;
plant is slow-
growing)
None
Pyrethrum
pyrethroides
(flowers)
n/k (Kyrgyz);
Kukchivir
(Shugni);
Romashnik
(Russian).
Helps prevent
soil erosion Livestock
fodder (autumn)
H = 5; C = 5
Traditional
medicine for
stomach, fever
high BP
H = 5; C = 5
None H = 5
C = 3 Common High Yes, can be
substituted
with
Matricaria or
romaska
(Russian) /
kukhchivor
(Shugni)
Nepeta
glutinosa
(stem)
n/k (Kyrgyz);
Khichikhorth
(Shugni);
Kotovnik
(Russian).
Eaten by
livestock if
ill,
soil binder
Medicine
(antibiotic
applied to cuts,
broken bones)
H = 5; C = 3
None H = 5
C = 1 Common, but
sparsely
distributed
Low
None
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 19
Ziziphora
afghanica
(stem)
Boz nich
(Kyrgyz);
Chambilak
vokh (Shugni);
Zizifora
(Russian).
Soil binder,
livestock
forage
Autumn/winter
forage
Medicine used
stomach
ailment,
memory loss,
high BP, sore
throat,
endoparasites
H=5; S = 0;
C = 2
None H = 5
C = 4 Common,
widely
distributed
High None
Primula
macrophylla Teke jalbusak
(Kyrgyz); Guli
bunavsha
(Shugni);
Pervotsvet
(Russian).
Good for soil
formation;
prevents soil
erosion
Livestock, ibex
& marmot
forage
H = 5; C = 2
Medicine
(throat, lung
congestion,
control of
diarrhea,
improves sight
(Kyrgyz)
H = 5; S = 3;
C = 1
None H = 5
C = 0 Common in
wet places &
drainages
Moderate None
Ferula
badachschanica
(stem; leaves)
n/k (Kyrgyz);
Rof, Revstak
(Shugni);
Ferula
(Russian).
Soil binder,
seeds used by
birds
Diet: Stems
eaten as salad by
humans; ibex
consume leaves
H = 5; C = 5
Medicine
(tuberculosis,
boils, syphilis,
stomach
aliments,
diabetes,
sedative, tooth
ache
H = 5; C = 5
Purifier for bad
spirits. People keep
dried plants inside
home
H = 5; C = 1
H = 5
C = 1 Common,
widespread
distribution
Moderate
(plant cycle
4-5 years,
less in wet
years when
tolerance is
higher)
None
Macrotoma Erdik (Kyrgyz); Soil binder livestock fodder None H = 5 Common, Moderate None
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 20
euchroma
(rootstock) Khibeh
(Shugni);
Macrotoma
(Russian).
– use slight
Dye (red)
H = 5; C = 0
Medicine
(headache,
treatment boils
or skin
problems,
childbirth
complications,
high BP)
H = 5; C = 5
C = 5 widespread (recovery 8-
10 yrs after
removal root)
Ephedra
intermedia
(berries, stem)
Checkendi
(Kyrgyz);
Amochak
(Shugni);
Efedra
(Russian).
Soil binder,
berries eaten
bird, nesting
cover
Livestock forage
(berries)
Diet (vitamin C)
H = 5; C = 0
Medicine
(toothbrush,
menstruation,
throat/gland
swelling,
narcotic or
stimulant, itchy
skin, heart tonic,
bone problems)
H = 5; C = 3
Some stories H = 5
C = 1+ Common,
widespread High None
Hedysarum
cephalotus
(flowers)
Kyzyl butma
(Kyrgyz); Rosh
jamol (Shugni);
Kopeechnik
(Russian).
Soil binder
with associate
Anthacamperi
um eaten by
Marco Polo,
ibex, marmot
Medicine (high
blood pressure)
H = ?
C = ?
Not known Not known Common High not known
Ceratoides
papposa
Teresken
(entire plant)
(Kyrgyz);
Tsuthm
(Shugni);
Teresken
(Russian).
Soil binder,
cover for
wildlife,
forage for
MP, ibex &
livestock
Forage
(livestock)
H = 5; C = 5
Fuel (heating &
cooking)
H = 5; S = 1; C
= 5
None Not known Common,
highly
depleted near
settlements
Low (slow
growing
plant, very
poor natural
replacement)
Yes, cattle,
sheep, goat
dung
Lindelofia
stylosa
(leaves)
Chop chai
(Kyrgyz); Chei
okhak
Soil binder,
associate with
Carex
Medicine (high
BP)
H = 5; C = 0
No H = 5 (k)
S = 0
C = 0 (k)
Common Low Yes
Replaced by
green tea,
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 21
(Shugni);
Lindefolia
(Russian).
Tea (prior to
Soviet era)
H = 5; C = 0
possibly
Ziziphora
afghanica
Hippophae
rhamnoides
(berries)
Chychyrkanak
(Kyrgyz); Khin
schuth
(Shugni);
Oblepikha
(Russian).
Soil binder
Food & cover
for wildlife
Diet: berries
(Vitamin C,
juice or jam)
H = 5; C = 5
Medicine (tonic,
liver or stomach
ailments, skin
sores & burns)
H = 3; C = 5
Livestock
fencing
Used for leather
processing
H=3; C=0/1
Fuel wood
S=1; C=5
None H = 3
C = 5 Common
gravel bed or
riverine
species
High None
Rosa huntica
(buds, leaves,
rootstock)
n/k (Kyrgyz);
Khar (Shugni);
Shipovnik
(Russian).
Cover for
wildlife, food,
soil binder
Diet: berries
(Vitamin C),
salad (young
stem, leaves)
Medicine
(stomach,
diarrhea,
relaxant,
antimicrobial,
anticoagulant,
blood sugar)
H = 3; C = 5
Dye (root,
yellow & red)
H = 5. C = 0
None H = 2; C =5
Common in
W. Pamir, rare
in East Pamir
High None
Menta Asiatica
(leaves)
Withzm
(Shugni)
Myata
(Russian)
Livestock
fodder,
prevents soil
erosion
Medicine (high
blood pressure,
kidneys, altitude
sickness,
stomach,
appendicitis),
H=5; C=5
Forage for
None C = 5 Common High Can be
replaced by
strakh for
stomach or
tsherefts for
high blood
pressure.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 22
livestock
Salix
schugnanica
(branches and
trunk)
Wan
(shugni)
Iva
Shugnanskaya
(Russian)
Soil binder,
(maintains
river banks)
Construction,
Fuel wood
S=2 C=5
Forage for
livestock
None C=1 Common
gravel bed or
riverine
species.
Decreasing
since collapse
Moderate Can be
replaced by
ablepex for
construction
material and
fuel wood
and by dung
for fuel
wood.
Bunium
badachshaunicu
m
(seed)
Zira
(shugni)
Zira
Badakhshanska
ya
(Russian)
Prevents soil
erosion.
Livestock and
wildlife
forage
Medicine (high
blood pressure,
stomach)
C=3
Spice, e.g. in
plov, etc.
C = 5
None Unknown Common in
specific area High Can be
replaced by
withzm for
high blood
pressure and
stomach, or
starch for
stomach
cannot be
replaced for
food.
Angelica
ternata
(entire plant
except roots)
Tsherefts
(shugni)
Dudnik
troychatyy
(Russian)
Prevents soil
erosion,
livestock and
wildlife
forage
Medicine (high
blood pressure)
C=4
None Unknown Found in
rocky areas.
Low Replaced by
withzm and
strach
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 23
Table 2. Culturally Important Animal Species
Species Local
Names Ecological
Significance Economic Uses &
intensity Social Uses &
Intensity Persistence of
Tradition Current Status Tolerance
to
Harvesting
Substitutes
Ovis ammon
polii
Marco Polo
Sheep
Arkar
(Kyrgyz);
Nakhovir
(Shugni);
Pamirskiy
baran,
Baran
Marko-Polo
(Arkhar)
(Russian).
Dominant
herbivore of
the high
Pamir
Main prey
species for
wolf, some
taken by
snow leopard
Endangered
species
Foreign hunter’s
trophy
H = 0; S = 2; C = 5
Meat (local people)
H = 4; S = 2-3; C =
5
Clothing, boots
local people
H = 4; S = 1-2; C =
1
Tourism
H = 0; S = 0, C = 1
Sacred animal,
symbol of purity &
pride
Horns in shrine (W
Pamirs)
H = 5; S = 3-4; C =
4-5
(value varies by
livelihood, very low
among military,
higher among
pastoralists)
Some folklore
Declining
reverence for
species
H = 4-5
S = 2-3?
C = 3 or less
Populations rapidly
declining, especially
near settlements
Populations are
considered
vulnerable
or very vulnerable to
disturbance
Up to date population
counts lacking
Low –
moderate Yes: by
mutton (but is
twice as
costly)
Social or
totem – none
Capra
[ibex]
sibirica
Ibex
Echki Teke
(Kyrgyz &
Shugni);
Sibirskiy
gorniy kozel
(Russian).
Nachtchir
(shugni)
Turgak
(young
male)
Ligver
(young
female)
Katabotch
(big male)
Golavaz
( old
female)
Other
dominant
herbivore of
the Pamir
Main prey for
snow
leopard, also
taken by wolf
Trophy hunting
(westerners):
H = 0; S = 1; C = 3
Meat: ibex is highly
liked by local
people
H = 5; S = 3-4; C =
5
Leather items locals
H = 5; S = 4; C = 4
Woolen items
locals
C= 1
Horns used to make
souvenirs and
decoration of
houses
C=3
Sacred species,
widely depicted in
petroglyphs
Horns in shrines (W
pamirs)
H = 5; C = 4-5
(Varies by location &
community)
Some folklore
H = 4-5
C = 3 Not listed as
threatened
Considered common,
but populations are
declining &
vulnerable to
depletion
Note: current
population data
lacking.
Note:local opinion
suggests that
population is
increasing again in W
Pamirs in past 3-4
years.
Moderate
Yes = meat
from
livestock
No as a totem
or trophy
Uncia uncia
Snow
Leopard
Irbis
(Kyrgyz);
Palange
kaye
With wolf,
dominant
carnivore of
area; keynote
Fur-trade (highly
prized in some
countries, illegal)
H = 4; C = 1/0
Bones, teeth, nail,
genitals of female SL
used as talisman
H = 3; C = 0/1
Not known Rare, endangered
species.
Population size not
Low None
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 24
(Shugni);
Irbis,
Snezhnyy
bars
(Russian).
species &
“indicator” of
a healthy
ecosystem
Endangered
Bone trade
H = 0/1; C = 3?
Livestock
depredator
H = 1; C = 2-3?
Little folklore known, most
common in W.
Pamirs
Endangered
population estimated
at 250?
Lynx Lynx
isabellinus
Asiatic lynx
Rarely seen
medium-
sized cat
preying upon
Tolai hares
Use not known
May occasionally
depredate domestic
livestock
(sheep/goats)
Not known not known Scarce, occurring
sporadically
Endangered
Low None
Canis lupus
Wolf
Urch
(Kyrgyz);
urch
(Shugni);
boru, volk
(Russian).
Dominant
large
predator of
dog-family
(others are
introduced
dhole &
ubituquous
fox)
Livestock pest –
trapped & hunted at
every opportunity
Fur: used for rugs
or hats
Widely despised
predator;
depicted in folklore
as “bad guy”
Bone of the leg used
as talisman.
H = 5; C = 5
Formerly
controlled by
Soviet
government
laws
Widespread &
considered common
Not threatened
(species of Least
Concern)
High None
Ursus
arctos
isabellinus
Brown bear
(Kyrgyz);
(Iourkh)
(Shugni);
medved
(Russian)
Excavates
marmot dens,
aerates soil;
predator of
marmots
Trade of body parts
used in traditional
Asiatic medicine
H = 0/1?
C = 2? Demand
from nearby China
may encourage
trapping
Not known Not known Likely declining.
Population crudely
estimated at 100-150
Endangered
Low or
very low None
Marmota
caudata
Marmot
(long-tailed)
Khitchif
(shugni)
Surok
(Russian)
Skin, oil and meat
used as medicine
(rheumatism,
frostbites,
tuberculosis,
bronchitis, etc.)
C=3
S=3
Some legends C=3 Common High Oil can be
replaced by
bear oil.
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Arkar, Nakhovir, Pamirskiy Baran, or the Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii)
From relatively recently created mosaics on bus-stops in GBAO to statues at the boundary of
Murghab district to centuries-old petroglyphs, the Marco Polo sheep occupies an important and
yet what appears to be a changing cultural place for the peoples of the Pamir. Arkar (Kyrgyz) or
Nakhovir (Pamiri), as it is locally known, is the closest that the communities of the Pamir,
especially the Kyrgyz, have to a species that equates to a cultural keystone species. A long
tradition of hunting, for example as seen in petroglyph depictions that include both bows and
firearms1 and numerous folktales, indicates its significance as a source of food and other
products; its meat is considered “tasty”, while the skin and wool have provided raw material for
boots and other items of clothing. As discussed in Section 4.4.4. and despite regulations to the
contrary, hunting of Marco Polo sheep continues, especially by local people and border officials
for food. Stories also exist about local people, particularly hunters, who used to collect the
droppings of Marco Polo sheep and ibex, light them, and then place the glowing pellets on their
stomachs to keep warm whilst sleeping outdoors in the winter.
Box 4. Hunting Traditions of Ancestors (p21 in Pamir Kyrgyz, 2003, translated from Kyrgyz2)
Experienced hunters taught younger generations (ages 12-15 years) how to hunt. They would take the
youths out with them and teach them hunting, showing where to hunt and when. After all the adults had
hunted, they would let the boys hunt.
Pamir Kyrgyz never considered someone as a good hunter if they began hunting after the age of 20.
Whoever started with a successful hunt had to invite the villagers and treat them with the meat. After
eating the meat, local people would wish that he would become a lucky hunter. Any hunter had to give all
the meat of the prey to local people. He was only allowed to keep the head and bust.
Within the Kyrgyz communities of Pamir, the significance of the Marco Polo sheep is also seen
through their specialized vocabulary for distinguishing the species by gender and age (see Box 5).
The species acquires further significance in local communities with use of these terms as place
names in the Pamir, e.g. Ak Arkhar. Although few place names are marked on the most
comprehensive map of the region, The Pamirs, produced by ACTED and Markus Hauser,
conversations with local people indicated that there are numerous unmarked places associated
with Marco Polo sheep.
Perhaps, because of its important economic function and its very impressive physical appearance,
the Marco Polo sheep is considered a symbol of pride and to some extent sacredness. Modern
representations, for example statues at the boundary of Murghab District indicate a sense of pride
about the species as do local sentiments such as “Pride of Pamir, Pride of Badakshan”. Its horns
can found adorning shrines near yurtas and houses but within the current population there is little
or no understanding or knowledge of the associated rituals and symbolism. The general response
to questions about rituals and symbolism is that grandparents (even of older people) were more
1 Tashbayeva T., Khujanazarov M., Ranov Z., and Samashev Z., (2001) Petroglyphs of Central Asia, International
Institute of Central Asian Studies, Samarkand, 220pp.
2 Zanarbaev A., Temurkylov K.,(eds) (2003) Pamir Kyrgyz, ACTED, Osh, 296pp
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
26
knowledgeable about such traditions, but these have been lost as livelihoods and practices
changed under the Soviet regime.
Box 5 Ages of Marco Polo Sheep in Kyrgyz (p22 in Pamir Kyrgyz, 2003)
Kylga (male) Arkar (female)
1 year. Kozuga Kozuga
2 years. Bodo Bodo
3 years. Kokmok Eki tishti arkarchak
4 years. Deldegel Arkarchak
5 years. Kak muiuz Tort tishti arkarchak
6 years. Chary chykma muiuz Alty tishti arkar
7 years. Gulgacher Arkar
8 years. Gulga Gez kairtargun arkar
9 years. Bir ailangen gulga Harygan arkar
10 years. Uch ailangen gulga
11 years. Gez kaitargun gulga
12 years. Haryan kylga
However, in the both the western and eastern Pamir, there are individuals for whom the natural
environment provides inspiration for artistic expression, and that too independent of any
organized efforts to encourage such efforts. A much admired songwriter, Lidouch, from Khorog
who died in 1998 left behind a legacy of songs in which the wildlife, flowers, rivers, etc. of the
Pamir and Badakshan feature strongly, e.g. Pomir kuyen, Ar Badakhshon savam. In the Eastern
Pamir we came across one active musician whose songs about wildlife emerge from a sense of
pride in their presence as well as concern over their disappearance (see Marco Polo song in Box
below). Although he noted that young people today prefer songs about love, he was aware of
other musicians in villages who continue to write and perform songs about wildlife (e.g., Box 6).
But like others, he also noted that in his childhood more people were interested and informed
about the range of folklore associated with the Pamir landscape and the rituals and symbolism
connected to the region’s fauna and flora.
Box 6 Marco Polo Song – written by Jaanbai Oljochiev, Madian, Murghab District.
1. They are in the far pastures 3. They are big interest for foreigners
Everybody admires them And hunters come from abroad to them
They are harmless animals They kill them for their horns and head
They live in big groups Firms take their prices for this
2. Marco Polo, the pride of Sary-Kul 4. They are the wealth of nature and earth
Inhabitants of rocky values It is a sacred animal, don’t kill them
The beauty of mountain is this animal They might disappear
Do not kill them please, let’s save them Please, humanity save them
In most of the elements that indicate a cultural keystone species, the Marco Polo sheep appears
to rate highly. It is a species that has a multiplicity of uses with a relatively high intensity of use,
albeit primarily through illegal hunting at present. It should be noted that hunting is not a new
phenomenon, but one with a long history and associated traditions and rituals among the peoples
of the region. A detailed terminology in language indicates its importance to at least the Kyrgyz
population, and its role in narratives and symbolism suggests a level of significance that is only
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
27
matched by the ibex. The persistence and memory of use of the species in relationship to
cultural change is interesting in that it remains a much discussed species despite the dramatic
changes of the past century, but it seems less important as a cultural symbol and serves more of
an economic and utilitarian function to a diverse population. However, one group to whom the
species does serve an important cultural function is international hunters who prize the animal
above all other wild sheep. For this group it would be difficult to replace such value with
another species, but for the majority of illegal hunters the alternative of mutton is unfortunately
more expensive under current conditions.
Although there is recognition of threats to the Marco Polo sheep at the government level, the
official ban on hunting seems to have little effect in the absence of its enforcement. At a more
local level, there is no significant indigenous response to control the hunting of Marco Polo
sheep, even though people are aware of the illegality of their actions and signs of a decline in
numbers, e.g. smaller herd sizes, fewer sightings, herds are further away from settlements. For
impoverished local populations (both resident and non-resident such as military personnel) with
relatively easy access to guns, the species continues to be an important source of food, perhaps
even more so than in the past.
If anything, the case of the Marco Polo sheep highlights the complexities of developing
integrated conservation strategies that build upon cultural and social values especially in regions
and populations that have undergone dramatic political and economic change. As we have
discovered, some of the strongest traditions and cultural values associated with the species are
related to hunting, which in recent years have taken on a new twist with the arrival of
international trophy hunters. In the next section, we explore in more detail the role of hunting
and its potential relationship with conservation strategies for the Marco Polo sheep.
In concluding this section, it is evident that the Marco Polo sheep is clearly associated with the
Kyrgyz and their folklore, songs, and livelihoods in the eastern Pamir. As noted in the piece
below “Without Marco Polo sheep, the mountains are dull”, but whether it qualifies as a cultural
keystone species is not so clear. Of more value has been the approach to exploring the concept
which has highlighted opportunities for further investigation and action.
Sanat (no author, undated, p221, from Pamir Kyrgyz),
Without ducks and goose
The lake is dull
Without women and girls
The people are dull
Without Marco Polo sheep
The mountains are dull
4.4.4. Hunting – A clash between cultural traditions and conservation?
Historical Context: Judging by the common and widespread representation in petroglyphs of ibex,
Marco Polo sheep and even brown bear, along with the inclusion of fire-arms (from Petroglyphs
of Central Asia, 2001) hunting has been part of Central Asian human life for centuries. Such
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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practices remain strong, with Kyrgyz pastoralists especially passionate about hunting Marco Polo
sheep or using falcons to chase after small game like hares and snow cocks for fur and meat.
Some herdsmen even use wild-caught golden eagles to help guard their sheep flocks from
predators.
Anthropologists believe these kind of traditional practices become deeply imbedded within the
culture, through a combination of rituals, ceremonies, legends and social taboos, and thereby
forge deep connections and respectful relationships between people and nature. Traditional
hunting laws promulgated under the Holy Qur'an and more specifically through the book Risolai
piri palavon or “Rules of Master Hunter” written by Ahmadi Zamchi – along with the use of
primitive weapons (initially bows and arrows and then muzzle-loading guns) – controlled the
number of animals killed during hunting trips. Wildlife populations readily absorbed this limited
hunting pressure, as suggested by the explorer Sven Hedin, as well as the early eighteenth
century Russians, or later by British hunters like C.S. Cumberland who saw large herds of wild
sheep and goats.
Unfortunately this rich reservoir of traditional knowledge and custom has broken down and
resulted in the widespread and unregulated hunting of wildlife, especially Marco Polo sheep
whose meat now sells for less than half the price of mutton. Attention to protecting species
during breeding and other vulnerable stages of their life history has waned, along with temporal
restrictions placed on harvesting levels. Socio-economic and political change brought about by
the ‘Great Game’ and Russian annexation drastically altered land-use and resource management
patterns in the Pamirs and GBAO. The traditional role of the elderly or respected teachers as
carriers of knowledge has almost entirely disappeared, so that the intergenerational transmission
of hunting values and laws has been seriously eroded over the past century. .
The Current Situation:
This Kyrgyz proverb aptly describes many of Murghab District’s 14,000 residents, especially
those herding livestock. People were well cared for during the Soviet era under the centralized
state-controlled economy which provided life’s necessities for the collective farms where nearly
all households were employed. The system provided mobile medical and veterinary services,
along with electrified winter homes and sufficient fodder for livestock to survive the cruel Pamiri
winter. All such services collapsed in 1991 when the Soviets withdrew and Tajikistan became a
republic. Livestock was divided among households and all is now private, although the original
grazing areas of the collectivized households have been maintained among its former residents.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union quickly led to widespread food-deficiencies, further
exacerbated by the ensuing civil war (see Bliss 2006). Military-grade firearms became freely
available, and were used with devastating effect, often killing entire herds of Marco Polo sheep,
including females with their young. With such widespread illegal hunting, Marco Polo sheep
populations plummeted. Although exact figures are lacking, they now thought to number a mere
fraction of what existed as recently as the late 1970’s (Schaller 2003). There are likely less than
10,000 and perhaps as few as 5,000-8,000 animals left in Tajikistan, many of which are
concentrated within a few isolated “hunting blocks.”
If you think you are poor, try the life of a nomad”
- Kyrgyz proverb
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1) Commercial Hunting: Programs catering to international hunters started in 1987. The basic fee
ranges from U.S. $22,000 to $27,000 or more depending on the hunter’s nationality and size of
the trophy. The season officially opens on September 15 for three months, with 40-60 licenses
being issued annually. However, there are persistent rumors that an unknown number of
“unofficial” licenses are available, especially to foreign hunters who are brought to Murghab
district directly from Kyrgyzstan, thus bypassing Dushanbe. Corruption is thought to be
pervasive, for there is no public accountability by government for funds generated by the
program, a concern raised even in local newspapers. Both the Ministry of Forestry and the
Ministry of Nature Protection can issue licenses, but in effect Nature Protection controls the
hunting program. According to local officials, Murghab District – where nearly all trophies are
taken – seldom sees any money from such Marco Polo sheep hunts. This includes the Tajik
(Pamir) National Park, although hunts within its borders have generated considerable money.
And with few exceptions, neither do local communities receive any direct benefit from
commercial hunting, although it often occurs within lands that they use and manage, albeit de
facto.
According to Schaller (2003), eight companies (each with its own defined concession area) cater
to Marco Polo sheep and ibex trophy hunters (mostly Americans) in Murghab District, but only
three operations attract clients with any consistency. These are the companies of
“Badakhanshan” with its base of operation within the Pamir National Park, “Shorbulak”
operating south of Rangkul, and “Murghab” in the South Alichur Range near the Afghan border
which has the reputation of being the best managed operation. Currently local benefits to local
people range from short-term employment as guides to accompany foreigners on their hunts to
longer-term employment as seasonal or year-round “wildlife watchers” for the hunting area,
payment (cash or livestock products) in return for managing livestock owned by the
concessionaire, and access to vehicular transport for moving livestock or household belongings
between summer and winter pastures.
It has become internationally acknowledged that money derived from trophy hunting of wildlife
must benefit the species’ conservation as well as local communities who may share the land, thus
offering incentives to protect and manage these resources wisely. So far, Marco Polo sheep hunts
in Tajikistan do neither.
2) Illegal Hunting: However, at present, the greatest threat to Marco Polo sheep, ibex, brown
bear, snow leopard, fox and other wildlife comes from uncontrolled hunting or trapping by local
people, the border guards, and officials from public agencies like the security bureau, police and
others.
The Tajik Border Guards stationed along the frontier with China and Afghanistan are extremely
poorly paid and provisioned, especially since the departure of their Russia counterparts. For
example, guards in the Zorkul zapovnik (strict scientific reserve) along the Wakhan Corridor
reportedly receive a salary equivalent to $1.50 per month, despite being stationed in a very
remote and difficult area. Reports indicate the guards are resorting to killing Marco Polo and
other wildlife for food, but the intensity of such illegal hunting is not known. Certainly such
actions by officials do not serve as good examples to the general public. Furthermore, some
soldiers are known to loan their kalashnikovs to family members during winter when the wild
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
30
sheep come closer to roads and the automatic weapons can be used with devastating impact.
Without proper incentives, education, policing or law enforcement, illegal hunting will be
virtually impossible to stop or control.
Before significant changes in social, political and economic systems in the last century, there
were often only one or two hunters in each village. Now there are many more who hunt; in fact,
many rural settlements now operate their own annual hunts aimed at supplying themselves with
meat for the harsh winter. People either quietly endorse or actively support such illegal hunting,
even turning a blind eye to the killing of pregnant females and nursery groups – a practice for
which penalties such as going blind, bad luck, etc., carried more weight and foreboding than they
do now. Instead of seeing herds of up to 100 Marco Polo sheep or ibex near the village, one must
travel 4-5 hours or more away and herd sizes are counted in tens or less.
We frequently heard comments like, “All the officials hunt, so why not we?” or “There is little
food for us, our livestock are too valuable, and Marco Polo meat tastes very good.” Our
interviews suggested that the typical hunter in settlements like Bulunkul may each kill 5-10
Marco Polo or ibex annually; if we extrapolate this to the 20+ similar-sized communities located
within Marco Polo range, the number of wild sheep harvested annually must easily exceed 200-
300. This figure would not include animals killed by military personnel, the police or persons
from other locations.
Box 1 lists some of the relatively strict traditional set of rules no longer followed, but which
could help bring hunting pressures back to more sustainable levels. It was widely held that
“something bad” would happen to any hunter failing to respect these rules. For example, in the
community of Batchor we heard of a deceased hunter by the name of Aidermamat who had
killed 8 ibexes at a time. When he returned home, blood came out of his nose and ears, and he
died soon afterwards.
Box 7: Risolai piri palavon (Rules of the Hunting Master).
Beside an extensive set of rituals governing pre- and post-hunting behavior, the book states:
You should not kill more than 3 animals at a time
You cannot put more than 3 bullets in your gun at a time
Hunting is not allowed in spring because ibex are pregnant and slim then
You can only shoot big males and old females. It is not allowed to kill females or their lambs
The hunter should share the animal’s meat in 3 portions: one for himself, one for his household,
one for guests. The meat should not be sold or bartered
Moving Forward: Tajikistan’s legal framework for environmental protection and biodiversity
falls under The Law on Nature Protection (promulgated in 1993 and revised in 2003) with
oversight from the State Committee for Environmental Protection (SCEP), and implementation
by the Ministry for Nature Protection. Trophy hunting management comes under Regulation No
24 (2001). The Tajik Government is currently implementing its 1998 – 2008 National
Environmental Program aimed at ensuring rational use of natural resources, maintaining the
optimal state of land, forests, pastures, water resources, and air, biological balance, and
protecting rare and disappearing types of flora and fauna.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
31
There is widespread recognition of the importance to better enforce and streamline Tajikistan’s
nature protection laws, and a multi-pronged effort is currently underway with financial and
technical support from the UNDP, World Bank and European Union.
Trophy hunting is often seen as depleting wildlife. The supply of large males may be reduced or
eliminated unless the number of animals killed is strictly controlled, and accurate data are
available concerning the sustainability of shooting males of a certain size. Scientists believe that
large, robust-horned males are essential to the population as they do most of the breeding during
the autumn-winter rut. These of course are the very age group most sought after by trophy
hunters. Systematic, scientifically-credible sex/age counts and monitoring are lacking. A hunting
program requires scientific involvement, regular monitoring, tight control, transparent
supervision and open discussion about potential problems or poor practices. So far Tajikistan
has not addressed these important issues. But if properly managed, there is little evidence to
indicate that trophy hunting can harm a large population: problems are most likely to arise when
numbers have been severely depleted and habitat deteriorates. This is inevitable given current
trends in illegal hunting patterns and the lack of public incentives to conserve.
The following legal and conservation actions are urgently needed in order to ensure the survival
of viable populations of Marco Polo sheep, ibex, snow leopard and other wildlife in the Pamir:
Review and enforce hunting regulations, with the control of firearms a high priority. Severe
and prompt penalties are warranted for the military, Public Security, police or anyone else
renting out or loaning firearms in return for wildlife meat. Without such controls, the
protection and management of Marco Polo sheep or ibex is not possible.
The salaries of border guards merit attention, along with means for improving their living
conditions and reducing their poaching activities. Besides increasing base salaries, border
guards need regular provisions of basic food supplies to deter them from hunting for either
food or cash.
Enhancement, as well as the establishment of mechanisms to ensure trophy hunting
operators and government authorities better distribute profits from hunts to local
communities. For example, a percentage of profits could be contributed to local
communities, along with the provision of jobs (for example, as guides or guards for
patrolling the area) and other benefits linked directly with nature protection and
stewardship. Simple actions like Schaller’s (2003) suggestion that the meat from trophy
animals be donated to communities could help change present attitudes of “if we don’t hunt
immediately, there will be nothing left for us” to “this is a species worth more alive than
dead.”
The trophy hunting program needs to be managed in more accountable and transparent
ways in order to address questions relating to corruption, while the bag limit needs to be set
scientifically and with respect to each sub-population. Revenues from the program need to
reach the field for supporting and expanding conservation efforts by staff of the Nature
Protection Department. With virtually no funds and low wages, they can do little to reverse
factors threatening Tajikistan’s biodiversity.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Our interviews repeatedly confirmed the resentment locals feel by being prohibited from
hunting without compensation, yet observing rich foreigners doing so within their area.
This, along with poor pay for Border Guards and freely available firearms, present the
greatest threats to the Pamir’s unique wildlife and biodiversity
Further investigations are warranted to determine how long-held cultural values and
customs of the Pamiri’s, Kyrgyz and Tajiks may be revived and adapted, in order to foster
community-based stewardship of nature in ways that conserve ecosystems and habitats – in
addition to focusing on particular species since these resonate culturally and economically,
and also provide a certain visibility and popular appeal to conservation efforts. We see this
as critical strategy, since a large proportion of the country’s rare plants and animals are
located outside of protected areas, often in habitats vital to farmers and pastoralists.
Further, we recognize that these issues must be addressed incrementally and with
sensitivity because of their contentious nature. It is extremely important to involve local,
national, and international organizations and conservation leaders in efforts to encourage
transparency and more equitable benefits from trophy hunting, in controlling poaching, and
toward engendering community stewardship for the wise use of the Pamir’s fragile natural
resources.
5. Implementation Pre-Proposal Outline
The following summary provides background information and the primary objectives of the pre-
proposal prepared as an output of this planning phase. The full pre-proposal along with a detailed
budget is available, and has been submitted to the Christensen Fund for a further two years of
support.
Mountain Voices and Community Actions: Local Initiatives in Biodiversity Conservation
and Livelihoods in Central Asia
The Snow Leopard Conservancy is requesting a grant to implement a project to support
community-driven initiatives in the stewardship of biological diversity and the development of
sustainable livelihoods in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The project builds
upon “Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species” which explored the concept of cultural keystone
species in the mountain communities of Tajikistan’s Pamir mountains (October 2005 to
December 2006) and opportunities for fostering community-based conservation of biodiversity.
Key findings from this exploratory phase included:
Relationships between cultural identities and critical species are important and complex. For
example, as residents of the Pamir, the Kyrgyz have a long tradition of hunting manifested in
folklore, language and art with rules to govern numbers to be killed and how. However, poor
economic conditions, access to guns and lax enforcement of regulations have led local
residents and newcomers, such as military personnel, to hunt Marco Polo sheep beyond the
limits prescribed in Kyrgyz traditions and customs.
Current patterns of animal hunting and plant extraction plants (both legal and illegal) are
having negative impacts in the long-term viability of ecologically and culturally important
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
33
species in the Pamir, as well as ecosystems. In particular, illegal hunting of Marco Polo sheep
in Tajikistan and neighboring Afghanistan poses a significant threat to the survival of the
species.
Loss of key fauna and flora, such as Marco Polo sheep and teresken, has significant
implications on local livelihoods. In a region with relatively few economic opportunities,
promising activities such as tourism will be negatively affected by the loss of attractions, such
as wildlife, and increased land degradation.
PhotoVoice, and similar participant-led explorations and learning exercises clearly energize
individuals and communities, and have the potential to convert the energy into livelihood and
conservation actions. Such tools do, however, need to be integrated into more comprehensive
planning frameworks and conducted to influence policy-makers.
There is limited organizational capacity to plan and manage community-driven conservation
and sustainable livelihood activities. Not only are there very few organizations, but
technically there is limited experience in designing and facilitating small-scale conservation
and linked livelihood initiatives.
Based on these and more extensive findings from the planning phase, plus consultations with
local organizations and experts, project objectives are to:
1. Build capacity in local organizations for participatory planning and action in community and
culturally-based stewardship of biodiversity. We see particular value in integrating innovative
tools such as PhotoVoice into planning methods such as Appreciative Participatory Planning and
Action (APPA).
2. Support local organizations in implementing at least three community-based biodiversity
conservation and livelihood initiatives with a focus on sustainable extraction, hunting practices,
species / habitat conservation and linking these with livelihood strategies.
3. Design and support sustainable hunting initiatives for the Pamir drawing upon cultural values
and customs and in partnership with local communities and organizations, hunting companies
and government authorities.
4. Improve access by local practitioners and policy-makers to participatory planning and similar
tools, and project outputs through exhibitions, translation into local languages, and inclusion in
local and regional websites, etc.
Our overall goal is to strengthen and give support to mountain voices and their abilities to take
actions as mountain communities. SLC’s approach is highly participatory, and characterized by
creativity, openness and innovation, plus a commitment to collaboration. SLC will continue to
collaborate closely with other TCF grantees as it did during the planning phase providing
opportunities for staff training, joint activities and sharing of resources and information.
6. Evaluation
Project evaluation covered direct outputs, as well as anticipated results beyond the life of the
grant period. Weather-related delays in Tajikistan precluded Nandita Jain from conducting face-
to-face meetings with several experts residing in Europe. Instead these were undertaken via
email. While this delayed our review of the literature, it had little or no adverse impact on the
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
34
project overall, and except for Professor Ranov and several other persons who were out of station,
the team was able to meet with all proposed local contacts during the two visits to Tajikistan.
Thus, we completed the initial field visit, literature review and field methodology largely on
schedule (Objectives and outputs under proposal items 1 and 2). However, in order to gather
more field site-specific information, we requested a 45-day No-cost extension, with the Final
Field Report being due December 31, 2006.
We assessed field-related outputs from Objectives 3 and 4 by the extent to which specific ideas
and methods were shared, along with the level and variety of demand for outputs like the
PhotoVoice methodology. Project partners were very excited about this highly participatory tool,
which we will further develop in order to make it even more applicable to local conditions and
levels of expertise with regard to participatory planning and action. Participants from MSDSP
have already shared the field methods with their colleagues, and SLC-India has successfully used
PhotoVoice as part of its annual evaluation of community conservation and tourism.
Once key materials from the project have been translated into Tajik and Russian, we plan on
placing selected outputs on the SLC website so that they can be shared more widely.
Our site-specific list of important plant and animal species is biased toward the Eastern Pamir, as
lack of time precluded similar efforts in the Western Pamir. In general, however, we are able to
make an assessment of intensity, type and multiplicity of species use, value for home-use, sale or
trading, constraints imposed by ecology or phrenology, and the availability of culturally
acceptable alternatives. Due to the excessively long list of ecologically and culturally important
plants and animals, we did not conduct an assessment of their ecological or restorative needs
(except perhaps for the Marco Polo sheep). Our preliminary assessment of livelihood
opportunities in which culturally important species can play a critical role focused on this species
along with the endangered snow leopard. Through an associated CF grant to Dr. John Mock, we
will be forging linkages with possible cross-border tourism between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Obviously, measuring change in local attitudes and actions toward cultural or biodiversity cannot
be measured within a short time frame. Nonetheless we have developed the framework for
ongoing participatory monitoring and evaluation, in which locally derived indicators, such as the
nature and number of locally-initiated actions will be used to assess contributions to conservation
of diversity during the implementation phase.
Encouraging news continues to come from Murghab where META has conducted a number of
activities with SLC support. Two surveys have been conducted for community-based tourism
products focusing on wildlife viewing, one of which will be developed further in early 2007. In
October 2006 META and the Nature Protection Group held the second Nature Protection
Awareness Festival "We and Nature" among 14 schools in Murghab district, featuring
competitions, theatre performances, concerts, discussions, and the collection of local legends and
stories about keystone species and nature protection. A high priority is to identify local persons
who can both train and monitor future initiatives. At the onset of the next phase of
implementation, we propose to provide local participants with further training, along with
undertaking a participatory SWOT analysis. This will further serve to highlight potential
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
35
opportunities, constraints and success factors. The Implementation Pre-Proposal submitted to
The Christensen Fund covers these items.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Appendices
Appendix 1
List of Additional Outputs (available upon request)
1. Unifying Concepts and Operating Hypotheses
2. Literature Review of Key Concepts
3. Planning Trip Report
4. Project Synopses – Russian and English
5. Field Investigation Methods
6. PhotoVoice Results – CD
7. Detailed Culturally Important Plant and Animal Species Matrices
8. List of Threatened and Endangered Species in Tajikistan
9. Field Notes – Interviews, Trip Reports, etc.
10. Photographic Library – CD
11. Pre-proposal for Next Phase of Implementation
12. References
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy 37
Appendix 2
July – August, 2006, Field Itinerary
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
July 1
2 3 5 6 7 8
9
10
NJ/RJ arrive in
Almaty on LH
(around 23.00hrs)
11
NJ & RJ: Almaty to
Dushanbe (Tajik
Airlines, 13.30hrs)
12
Dushanbe
RW: Delhi to
Almaty
13
Dushanbe
RW: Almaty to
Dushanbe
14
Depart for Khorog,
overnight en route
in Kalai-Kum
15
Arrive in Khorog
16
Khorog – KIIs, trip
preparations, team
meeting
17
Khorog
Seminar, team
meeting
18
Start field activities
with META
Khorog to
Roshtkala/Tabersem
19
Tabersem to
Jawshangoz
20
Jawshangoz to
Jelondy
21
Jelondy to Bulunkul 22
Bulunkul
23
Bulunkul 24
Bulunkul 25
RW to Kalai-Kum
Other team
members to Khorog
Rest to Alichur
26
Alichur to Murghab
RW to Dushanbe
27
Murghab
28
Murghab –
Seminar
RW to Almaty
To Jarty Gumbez
29
Ak-Kalama
RW: Almaty to
Delhi
30
Ak-Kalama
31
Ak-Kalama to
Murghab, via
Tokhtamish
August 1
Murghab 2
Murghab 3
Murghab
Complete field
activities with
META
4
NJ/RJ to Osh 5
NJ/RJ to Arslan Bob
6
NJ/RJ to Bishkek
7
Bishkek
8
Bishkek 9
RJ -To Almaty (by
road on LH Bus)
NJ – To Dushanbe
10
RJ - To USA (LH
around 01.00hrs)
11 12
13
14 15
16
NJ: Dushanbe to
Bishkek and Almaty
17
NJ –Almaty to
London
18 19
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Appendix 3
Key Participants and Persons Consulted
Dr. Rodney Jackson – Director, SLC-USA
Nandita Jain – Advisor, SLC-USA
Ubaidullah Mamadiev – President - META
Mairambek - Translator and Guide, META
Dr. Dovutsho Navruzshoev – Scientist, University of Central Asia/Pamir Biological
Institute
Dastanbui Mamadsaidov, Communications Officer, University of Central Asia (currently MA
student)
Rinchen Wangchuk – Field Director, SLC India- Trust
Marielle Leseur – Small Business Advisor, MSDSP
Nilufar Saboieva – Program Assistant, Land Use and Management Project, GTZ
Suyn - Culture Officer, ACTED, Murghab
Christopher Belperron, Base Manager-Murghab, ACTED
Khujadsho, Guide, Bulunkul, Murghab
Attabai, Guide and Pack Animal Operator, Bulunkul, Murghab
Benazir, VO Chairman, Bulunkul, Murghab
Jaanbai Ojochiev, Herder and Songwriter, Madian, Murghab
Bekmurodi Attabek, Hunting Concession Operator, Murghab Hunting Company, Jarty
Gumbez, Murghab
Toilibek, Assistant to Attabek, Jarty Gumbez, Murghab
Surat Toimastov, Trekking Agent, Photographer,
Julie Desage – Ecotourism Coordinator, ACTED, Dushanbe
Fatullo Nusairiev – Regional Manager, MSDSP, Khorog
Bekmurodi Aydibek Shrinbekzoda – Deputy to the Governor of GBAO, Khorog
Dr. Yasmin Lodi – Director, AKHP, Dushanbe
Dr. Saidmir Somansurov – Deputy Director, Pamir Biological Institute, Khorog
Maxad Shukrikhudoev, Assistant to Regional Manager, MSDSP, Khorog
Andre Fabian, Coordinator, Land Use and Degradation Project, GTZ, Khorog
Stefan Michel, Natural Resources Consultant, Almaty
Dr. Kadamshoev Mamadsho, Zoologist, Pamir Biological Institute, Khorog.
Nazardod Jonbaboshoev, Journalist, Khorog
Nazar Bublalot, Education and PR Staff (part-time), Nature Protection Department, Murghab
Sang Gulomshoev, Deputy Director, Nature Protection Department, Murghab
Bulunkul Village - Olam Davlatshoeiva, Rudoba Nabieva, Mahbuba Nabieva, Gul, Kurbon,
Zafargul, Madish, Fayzullo, Paishambe, Pokisamo, Oistamo, Kurbonbegim, Amor and Zulfia
Tokhtamish Village - Arstenbek and Adeldek
Ak-Kalama - Taip, Urustom, Kengezbek, Mairambek, Gulmairam, Boroshoboi, Ilgiz,
Genjevik, Mamatumar, Fatima, Nargiza, Samar, Zamurat, Rabia, Salamat
Batchor Village - Sultansho Keorboniev, Paishanbe Nobovarov, Sombolmo Bodurova,
Ranogul Marodmamadova
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Gund Valley - Amatbek Shodmanbekov, Davlatsho Mamadshoev
Bartang Valley - Djomboz Dushanbiev, Sabzbahor Mirzoshoeva, Odina Davlatmamadov,
Khodjamir Safarmamadov, Dilovar Dastambouiev, Davlatnazar Tolibekov, Mirshozoeva
Sabzbahor, Dilovar Dastambouiev, Bozmamad Shomamadov,
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Appendix 4
References (Partial listing only)
Baker, S. Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity and Representation. Manchester; Manchester
University Press, 1993.
Berkes, F. 1999. Sacred Ecology: Traditional ecological knowledge and resource management.
Taylor and Francis, Philadelphia and London, UK.
Berkes, F., J. Colding and C. Folke. 2000. Rediscovery of traditional knowledge as adaptive
management. Ecological Applications 10(5):1251-1262.
Berkes, F. and C. Folke (editors). 1998. Linking social and ecological systems: management
practices and social mechanisms for building resilience. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, UK.
Bliss, F. 2006. Social and Economic Change in the Pamirs (Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan).
Routledge Press, London and New York. 378 pages.
Bowen-Jones, E. and A. Entwistle. 2002. Identifying appropriate flagship species: the
importance of culture and local contexts. Oryx 26(2):189-195.
Caro, T.M. and G. O’Doherty. 1999. On the Use of Surrogate Species in Conservation Biology.
Conservation Biology, 13 (4):805–814.
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE). 2003. The Tajik Pamirs: challenges of
sustainable development in an isolation mountain region. Berne, Switzerland.
Colding, J. and C. Folke. 1997. The relations among threatened species, their protection, and
taboos. Conservation Ecology (online) http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol1/iss1/art6/
Colding, J. and C. Folke. 2001. Social taboos: "Invisible" systems of local resource management
and biological conservation. Ecological Applications 11 (2): 584-600.
Davic, R. D. 2002. Herbivores as keystone predators. Conservation Ecology 6(2):r8. [online]
URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss2/resp8.
Davic, R. D. 2003. Linking keystone species and functional groups: a new operational definition
of the keystone species concept. Conservation Ecology 7(1):r11. [online] URL:
http://www.consecol.org/vol7/iss1/resp11.
Garibaldi, A. and N. Turner. 2004. Cultural Keystone Species: Implications for Ecological
Conservation and Restoration. Ecology and Society 9(3): 1. [accessed online]
URL:http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol9/iss3/art1
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Jackson R., and R. Wangchuk. 2004. A community-based approach to mitigating livestock
depredation by snow leopards. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 9:307-315.
Jianchu Xu, Erzi T. Ma, Duojie Tashi, Yongshou Fu, Zhi Lu and David Melick. 2005.
Integrating Sacred Knowledge for Conservation: Cultures and Landscapes in Southwest
China. Ecology and Society 10(2): 7. [accessed online] URL:
http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol10/iss2/art7/
Kremen, C. 1992. Assessing the indicator properties of species assemblages for natural areas
monitoring. Ecological Applications 2: 203–217.
Lambeck, R. J. 1997. Focal species: a multi-species umbrella for nature conservation.
Conservation Biology 11:849–857.
Landres, P. B., J. Verner, and J. W. Thomas. 1988. Ecological uses of vertebrate indicator
species: a critique. Conservation Biology 2:316–327.
Mills, L. S., M. E. Soulé, and D. F. Doak. 1993. The keystone-species concept in ecology and
conservation. BioScience 43: 219–224.
Noss, R. F. 1990. Indicators for monitoring biodiversity: a hierarchical approach. Conservation
Biology 4:355–364.
Nuñez, M.A. and D. Simberloff. 2005. Invasive Species and the Cultural Keystone Species
Concept [Response to Garibaldi and Turner. 2004] [accessed online] URL:
http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol10/iss1/resp4/
Posey, D.A. (ed) Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, London, UNEP/IUCN/ITDG
Publications. 1999.
Power, M. E., D. Tilman, J. A. Estes, B. A. Menge, W. J. Bond, L. S. Mills, G. Daily, J. C.
Castilla, J. Lubchenko, and R. T. Paine. 1996. Challenges in the quest for keystones.
BioScience 46:609–620.
Roberge, J.M. and P. Angelstam. 2004. Usefulness of the umbrella species concept as a
conservation toll. Conservation Biology 18(1):76-85.
Schaller, G.B. 2003. The Conservation Status of Marco Polo Sheep In Tajikistan. Unpub. Report
submitted to The Wildlife Conservation Society and National Geographic Society (Grant No.
7488-03). 25 pages + appendices.
Simberloff, D. 1998. Flagships, umbrellas and keystones: is single-species management passé in
the landscape era? Biological Conservation 83:247–257.
Simmons, I.G. Interpreting Nature; Cultural Constructions of the Environment, London,
Routledge, 1993.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Tashbayeva, K., M. Khujanazarov, V. Ranoz and Z. Samashev. 2001. Petroglyphs of Central
Asia. Institute for Central Asian Studies, Samarkand and Biskek. 219 pages.
Walpole, M.J. and N. Leader-Williams. 2002. Tourism and flagship species in conservation.
Biodiversity and Conservation 11: 543–547, 2002.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Appendix 5: Selected photographs from summer field trip
Bulunkul herder examining his digital pictures Nandita Jain working with children to select pictures for
sharing with the Ak-Kalama community
Women’s group discussing pictures (Ak-Kalama)
Yellow poppy – the Pamirs are rich
in wildflowers
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Herder’s camp near Alichur
Teresken fuel supply – a rapidly disappearing
resource
Murghab Hunting Company “welcome sign”
Typical landscape near Alichur
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
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Selected Photographs from Traveling PhotoVoice Exhibit (see text for explanation)
There are beautiful things hanging in our yurta. We live in a beautiful yurta, where there are many places
to hang things like our clothes. We are proud of the nice things in our yurta which are well-made and
valuable.
This picture is of Kokjilga “ The Blue Valley”. Here there are many plants that are grazed by wild animals,
mainly Marco Polo sheep and ibex which like the area a lot. Domestic animals also graze here. We
walked about 2-3km to take the picture.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
46
Kyzyl Burma (Kyrgyz)
This is one of the best plants in the area but it is disappearing. It is tasty for all animals, and
especially good for milk animals
Radiola or the Golden Root.
This is a medicinal plant that we should protect. It plays an important role for local people who use it for
various complaints – liver, memory, stomach. There is interest from pharmaceutical companies in this
plant. People know about this plant, and we think that we should plant more of this species and cultivate
it.
Mountain Cultures, Keystone Species - CAT / Snow Leopard Conservancy
47
This is a kuljan (Kyrgyz for male Marco Polo sheep). I like to embroider using wool, especially wild
and domestic animals. My son drew the sheep and then I embroidered. Note: when asked which
wild animals she likes most she said Marco Polo.
PhotoVoice
Promising tool for community-based planning
Photos enable communities to dynamically
identify & represent themselves
Accompanying stories (narratives) provide
meaningful context, encourage participation &
dialogue
People-friendly: PhotoVoice gives communities
their own voice, power & greater confidence
for planning
Energizes local communities around issues of
culture and biodiversity conservation
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... However, this is below the minimum viable population (MVP) of 876 for this sub--species to thrive genetically. 51 However, since a single Amur Tiger requires a range of 500 km 2 , reaching and maintaining this population promises to be an extremely challenging task. Nevertheless, conservation of this eco--region is important not only for the tiger as its apex predator but also, as with other remaining tiger sub--species because tigers maintain a critical balance over their prey populations, which in turn affect the structure and health of the forests and the many endemic and rare species in this eco--region. ...
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