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A flock of sheep is intended for leopards


It’s common knowledge that stealing is wrong. Even if the thief is a dumb animal, for instance, a fox in a hen house, it deserves punishment anyway. But what if a leopard, a rare animal registered in the Red Book (their population being extremely limited on the planet) is a thief or has killed someone’s sheep or horse? How can environment protection interests be reconciled with stock-breeders’ losses? Specialists of WWF Russia have clearly proved that such reconciliation is possible.

This is how the world goes round: leopards do attack domestic livestock from time to time, these cases have become more frequent in recent years, when the quantity of wild ungulates decreased sharply. That caused fair indignation of livestock owners. Striving to protect the flock from further encroachments, the shepherds are ready to raise the cock. How can the act of punishment be prevented? The WWF has found the solution: the losses should be compensated. But how can the funds be raised? Certainly, the sponsors can be found, nevertheless, that will help to settle only momentary problems, but the task is to insure leopards’ security for a long time – at least until the quantity of wild ungulates has been recovered. The insurance payments concept seemed promising, a more successful option was suggested by N.B.Andreyev, one of the founders of the Sunt-Khasardag reserve – i.e. to use sheep for paying the compensation in. It has become the custom in the East: a sheep is a universal equivalent replacing money in many cases. Moreover, a decision was taken to acquire a proprietary flock of sheep to be used as an insurance fund. The calculation is simple: annually, about a hundred sheep are killed by leopards, therefore the insurance flock quantity should be high enough so that the annual offsprings could be sufficient to compensate for the hundred victims, the shepherd’s wages, insurance flock fodder and the flock veterinary service. The idea was put to life: in 2001, the WWF of Holland allocated money and the Fund acquired the first group of sheep (slightly more than a hundred) in the Karakalinsky Region of Turkmenistan. Now the flock numbers 370 sheep. It is planned to set up the second flock the Central Kopet Dagh by adding the money of the WWF of Switzerland.

How are decisions taken on compensation payments? No longer than two days after a new victim of a leopard is discovered, the shepherd is to inform about the incident the local WWF representative, the latter will call the predetermined experts who are specially trained and equipped with cameras and other necessary facilities. The experts decide whether the case is an insured accident. No compensation can be expected if the accident took place in the reserve territory – in that area, the predators have the right to hunt freely. It is necessary to prove for certain that the domestic animal’s death happened particularly because of the leopard. The dead animal should remain on the spot – now the predator assumes possession of it. Results of the investigation are submitted to the council of the elders, which is to decide on the number of sheep to be returned to the owner: the compensation varies for a sheep, a horse or a cow.

“Experience shows that this scheme works well, believes Olga Pereladova, Central Asia programme officer WWF Russia. More that a hundred sheep have been paid off, for stable exploitation the flock should be brought up to 400-500 sheep. After that the WWF can cease investing extra money – the WWF financial contributions will no longer be needed for the leopards, although we are shall still continue to monitor the processes.” The system ensures that leopard protection can be accomplished independently, by local forces – and that is what the WWF is striving for.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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