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Last year, SCIF began support for the conservation of wild Bukhara urial sheep in southwestern Tajikistan. Urial is a species that is vulnerable itself, threatened by poaching and intensive pressure from livestock grazing, but a community-based model funded by hunting is also proving to benefit other endangered wildlife, including the striped hyena.
The striped hyena is classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN but listed on Tajikistan’s Red Book of endangered species with a declining population. This area represents the extreme outer range of the striped hyena in Central Asia.
Hyenas are challenged by living close to areas of high human density and local pastoral communities that view them as vermin. Experts in Tajikistan believe that the hyena is primarily a scavenger and, by removing pathogens from the environment, may actually be a benefit to livestock herders.
Meanwhile, the urial project will first assess the population, currently thought to be around 100 sheep. After baseline data are collected, a community NGO will be established to gain management rights for the area and work towards implementing a hunting program in future years. Critical funding supplied by SCIF will also provide anti-poaching gear for local wildlife rangers and create positive incentives for the removal of livestock from a core habitat area. The goal is to increase the urial population to 1,000 sheep and have the area become a premier hunting destination.
This SCIF wildlife conservation project is just another example of the wide range of benefits from community-based approaches funded through sustainable use hunting.