August 19, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging (Roof the the World Issue of Science Geek Edition)

Snow leopards (Uncia uncia) are big cats native to the mountains of Central Asia. They are not in fact particularly closely related to leopards, but they are solitary, beautiful animals (the young are intensely cute), and, unsurprisingly, endangered. Hearteningly, their numbers are actually increasing. Somewhat dishearteningly, part of this is due to an "involuntary park" effect: a lot of their habitat lies along the borders of unfriendly states, where armies exclude people who might otherwise want to use that land for grazing. (Obviously this excludes actual areas of continuing hostilities, like Siachen Glacier, site the "war above the clouds", of one of the most extraordinary, and pointless, conflicts of modern times.) You have to be very poor to find land like this desirable, but there's no shortage of really poor people in Central Asia. However, good work is being done by the Snow Leopard Trust in community-based conservation, trying to devise ways of actually making the presence of the animals beneficial to their human neighbors. (Iowa could use some of this.) The latest effort, in conjunction with the International Finance Corporation (a part of the World Bank group) is to bring this approach to the Sary-Chat Ertash nature reserve in Kyrgyzstan, next door to a substantial gold-mining area. Since the park rangers appear to have exactly one jeep, this seems like a good thing. In the meanwhile, if you find yourself yearning for some Central Asian handicrafts (and who doesn't, from time to time?), the Snow Leopard Trust's online store seems like a beneficent way to get them. (Via the Private Sector Development Blog at the World Bank.)

Friday Cat Blogging; Afghanistan and Central Asia

Posted at August 19, 2005 17:16 | permanent link

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