By Chris Rickleton
Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan are considering a bill that would turn endangered species into fair game.
Advocates of the legislation contend that the legislation would discourage poaching and foster the long-term survival of the threatened species through the strict regulation of hunting practices. Ecologists and anti-corruption activists are heaping scorn on such assertions, saying weak enforcement mechanisms mean that the legislation would simply hasten the extinction of many threatened species.
For most of the Soviet period, even as industrialization and farming depleted habitats, hunting bans and state-run nature reserves helped preserve rare species. Amid former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms in the late 1980s, that old system collapsed, and the numbers of previously protected species went into free fall. Today, overhunting continues, as licensed hunting firms and illegal poachers decimate dwindling wild animal populations. (The mass poaching of the brown bear in Kyrgyzstan has even affected its natural habits, ecologists say. Bears are so harassed that in winter they rarely hibernate in the same spot twice).
The state can license kills of rare, but not endangered, animals through private hunting firms. Foreign hunters, mainly Germans and Americans, pay upwards of $20,000 for “trophies,” particularly rare breeds of the argali mountain sheep, of which the Marco Polo sheep is the most well-known.
Conservationists complain that the collected fees -- intended to help protection efforts, as well as shore up local budgets -- often disappear into officials’ pockets. More....