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GEF Small Grants Programme, Программа малых грантов в Узбекистане

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First steps on cheetah reintroduction in Uzbekistan

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First steps on cheetah reintroduction in Uzbekistan
On-going project

Just for the last 500 years more than 800 species have disappeared from the earth due to human activity, which make almost two species per year! And the process continues, many species of animals, insects, plants, and others are critically endangered.

altIn Uzbekistan, the complete disappearance of Turan tiger, Asiatic wild ass of the Turkmenistan, Aral Sea trout and cheetah is a vivid example of pressure of the mankind being made on the country biodiversity. Moreover, the cheetah has disappeared not long ago - in 70 years of the 20th century not only from the territory of Uzbekistan but also from the entire territory of the former Soviet Union.

This species belongs to the large predators that occupy the top positions in the food pyramid and the state of their population reflects the health of the whole ecosystem. It is proved that disappearance of large predators leads to unpredictable changes in the ecosystem itself, and affects negatively not only the population of direct victims, but also the vegetation communities. For example, the lack of selective control over the victim populations, when the weaker species are killed by predators, leads to degeneration and reduce of the victim population, i.e. mainly hoofed animals, which in turn affects the vegetation. That is why the restoration of the cheetah in Uzbekistan is of great importance not only for biodiversity but also for the restoration of our deserts.

Cheetah is a rare species included to the International Red Book (IUCN) with the status Vulnerable species, and in the Red Book of Uzbekistan as Extinct. In the past, the cheetah habitat in Uzbekistan covered the desert of Kyzylkum and Ustyurt. In the Kyzylkum desert cheetah disappeared in the 19th century, the cheetah has disappeared in Ustyurt only recently: in 1960-1970 13 animal units were counted, after 1973 no cheetah has been ever met there (the Red Book of Uzbekistan, 2009).

The main causes of extinction:

  • Large-scale economic development of the land, and as a result is displacement of wildlife (ungulates, cheetah) to less favorable habitats.
  • Significant reduction of the wild ungulates which are the main food supply of cheetah. In our conditions, these are formerly numerous antelope and gazelle, which now are included in the Red Book of Uzbekistan as extinct and vulnerable species, respectively. (Red Book of Uzbekistan, 2009)
  • Poaching for cheetahs. There have been cases of catching the cheetahs for keeping them in captivity, and also their destruction for getting the fell.
  • Untimely and inefficient system of protection. Attempts to save the cheetah were made too late: while the reserves were being created in the Ustyurt in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the cheetah has already disappeared.
  • Low level of environmental consciousness. Indifference to the ongoing environmental catastrophes, disappearance of species are partly the reason for what is happening.

The project approved by the GEF SGP in March 2012 will make the first steps for the reintroduction of the cheetah on the territory of Uzbekistan.
 

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Photo by Andrey Timchenko

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