Parliament in Kyrgyzstan has narrowly rejected legislation that would have made it illegal to hunt endangered animals until 2030.
Opponents of the bill, which was defeated 56 to 52, argued that the ban could cost the country money in lost tourist revenue. They also said the legislation would do nothing to solve the problem of poaching.
“We could get a boomerang effect from a moratorium. Besides, we would lose revenue from foreign hunters,” said Isa Omurkulov, a member of parliament with the ruling Social-Democratic Party (SDPK).
The government currently charges 450,000 som ($6,000) for a license to hunt Argali mountain sheep, known locally as Arkhar, the most commonly sought trophy animal for foreign hunters. An all-inclusive hunting expedition to the country can about $15,000-20,000 — likely the lowest rate in the whole region. (Here is footage of a foreigner on a hunt in Kyrgyzstan).
Authorities freely admit that foreigners buying a single license are at liberty to shoot dead as many animals as they care to.
Lawmakers certainly have a point about poaching.
According to official figures, there were 520 instances of illegal hunting recorded in the 2015-16 season, while only 69 licenses were handed out. Indeed, while those lawfully hunting contribute substantial sums of money to the economy, illegal hunters do nothing but cause possibly permanent environmental damage.
Supporters of the moratorium have said they will continue their campaign, however.
“We must continue to protect our ecology, which was religiously cared for by our ancestors,” said lawmaker Zhanar Akayev, who helped draft the bill. “There will always be those that resist major changes, but we must continue to expand the ranks of our supporters.”
Yuri Bykovchenko, a doctor of biology at the Academy of Science, said he was outraged by parliament’s decision.
“If they voted against the [moratorium], it means they are poachers themselves. We have so few rare animals, so why don’t we just kill those too! They have no compassion for anything in nature. Deputies want to destroy anything that they didn’t create themselves,” Bykovchenko told EurasiaNet.org.
Bykovchenko said that beyond mountain goats, more efforts are needed to save snow leopards, lynxes, deer, otters, marmots, porcupines and other endangered species. Preserving this rich assortment of animals will not lose the government any money, but will on the contrary earn income from eager tourists, he said.