Chapter 11 Transboundary Cooperation

11.1. Introduction

Snow leopards are top predators that live in environments with relatively low productivity and have large home range sizes (See Chapter 2 Review of Current Status). Single sites, including most Protected Areas (PAs), are too small to harbour significant snow leopard populations. It is, therefore, essential to design and implement conservation strategies at landscape scales to ensure the long-term persistence of viable populations of snow leopards and their prey (Jackson et al. 2010; see Chapter 1 Introduction). Larger populations are inherently more likely to persist, retain greater genetic variation, and are less vulnerable to the stochastic factors influencing population size and dynamics. Landscape scale planning for intact meta-populations safeguards dispersal corridors between core populations, maintains genetic variation and enhances resilience to climate change.

Political borders rarely coincide with entire ecosystems, and this is particularly true of mountain regions where national boundaries commonly follow ridgelines, where snow leopards and mountain ungulates range on both sides. Indeed, large parts of snow leopard habitat globally lie along international borders. It has been estimated that up to a third of the snow leopard’s known or potential range is located on or less than 50-100 km from the international borders of the 12 range countries (Jackson, unpub. data). The need for transboundary cooperation in these cases, and in wider ecosystem initiatives, has always been clear. However, political considerations may inhibit or prevent cooperation from being realized in specific cases.

Delegates to international snow leopard conferences held over the past two decades have advocated transboundary collaboration, including the establishment of transboundary Protected Areas (see Proceedings of Snow Leopard Symposia available online at: For example, at the 2008 meeting held in Beijing, the delegates called upon range countries to “develop mechanisms (e.g. Memoranda of Understanding) for promoting transboundary cooperation on matters such as trade, research and management relevant to snow leopard conservation that include, inter alia, the impacts of climate change on distribution and long-term survival of snow leopards, and where it is possible to incorporate positive actions within conservation programs (e.g. carbon neutral projects)”.

Range states endorsed the importance of transboundary collaboration and identified specific measures for implementation through Year 2020 under the country-specific NSLEPs or National Snow Leopard Ecosystem Priority Protection plans presented at the October 2013 Global Snow Leopard Forum held in Bishkek and sponsored by the World Bank (2013) to which readers are referred for details. These documents can be downloaded from:

The World Commission on Protected Areas (2001) published a “Best Practices” manual on PA collaboration. The Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group of the IUCN World Commission on PAs is a potential source of information and advice.

Singh and Jackson (1999) examined the role of transboundary PAs for creating opportunities for conservation and peace using the snow leopard as a flagship species. Transboundary cooperation can be realized in a variety of ways and at different levels: formal international accords (such as CITES and CMS); bilateral or multilateral agreements focused on snow leopards or on ecosystem projects encompassing snow leopards among other species; cooperation and information-sharing among NGOs, scientists, researchers, agencies or PA staff. Transboundary collaboration involving an iconic species like the snow leopard offers a number of advantages to the host countries (IUCN 2001, WCS 2007):

Primary Objectives for Transboundary Collaboration

  • Support long-term cooperative conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and natural and cultural values across boundaries
  • Promote landscape-level ecosystem management and bio-regional land-use planning
  • Build trust, understanding, reconciliation and cooperation between and among countries, communities, agencies and other stakeholders
  • Share knowledge on biodiversity and cultural resources, skills and experience, including cooperative research and information management
  • Encourage multinational or regional training and surveys

Benefits of Transboundary Collaboration

  • Larger, contiguous areas offer safeguards for biodiversity by better protecting more habitats, providing for maintenance of minimum viable populations of many species, and to allow movement and migration, particularly of large carnivores and ungulates
  • Where populations of flora or fauna cross a political or administrative boundary, transboundary cooperation promotes ecosystem or bioregional management
  • Reintroduction or natural re-colonization of large-ranging species can be facilitated by transboundary cooperation
  • Pest species (pathogens, insects) or alien invasive that adversely affect native biodiversity are more easily managed if joint control is exercised
  • Poaching and illegal trade across boundaries are better controlled by transboundary cooperation, including joint patrols and border inspections for illegal wildlife
  • Improved capacity of government agencies to deliver benefits and provide ecosystem services to local residents as well as downstream populations
  • Environmental security, enhanced political and economic collaboration
  • Consistency of methodology in monitoring promoted.

11.2. Recent Transboundary Initiatives and Current Status of Transboundary PAs:

Several ecosystem-level projects within snow leopard range have been initiated.

The GEF West Tien Shan project (2005-2009) aimed to improve and increase cooperation between five PAs, all of which hold snow leopards: Chatkal State Reserve (Uzbekistan), Sary-Chelek and Besh-Aral SRs (Kyrgyzstan) and Aksu-Djabagly SR (Kazakhstan). The objectives also include strengthening institutional capacity and national policies, supporting regional cooperation, and enhancing income generation within the PAs.

The Tien Shan Ecosystem Development Project, also funded by GEF, was launched in 2009 to support management of PAs and sustainable development in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Pamir-Alai Transboundary Conservation Area project (PATCA) was funded by the EU and examined the option of creating a transboundary PA across the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and a biological database was assembled, but no further action was taken, though proposals to establish a PA still exist.

The “Mountains of Northern Tien Shan” project has been developed for the period 2013-2016 with the assistance of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Society for Nature Conservation (NABU). Within the framework of this project it is planned to organize a transboundary PA at the junction of three existing PAs: Chon-Kemin (Kyrgyzstan), Chu-Or NP and Almaty SR (Kazakhstan).

In Kyrgyzstan, the Issyk-Kul Oblast State Administration decided to establish Khan Tengri Natural Park (more than 1870 km²), in order to implement a Decision of the Parliamentary Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic. This proposed site directly borders the Kazakhstan and the People’s Republic of China and links Naryn, Sarychat-Ertash State Reserves and Karakol NP in Kyrgyzstan with Tomur Reserve in Xinjiang, China.

The Altai Sayan Ecoregion Project, which began in 2007, aimed to enhance cooperation on biodiversity conservation between NW Mongolia and Russia in that Ecoregion and snow leopard was one of the focal species. Subsequently, the governments of Russia and Mongolia and Russia and Kazakhstan prepared and signed agreements to establish the Uvs-Nuur and Altai Transboundary Nature Reserves, respectively, in 2011-2012, with WWF-Russia, WWF-Mongolia and the UNDP-GEF Project “Biodiversity Conservation in Altai-Sayan Ecoregion providing a coordinating role. The Altai Transboundary complex consists of the Katunskiy Biosphere Reserve (Zapovednik) (1,516.4 km²) in the Altai Republic, Russia, and the Katon-Karagaysky National Park (6,435 km²) in the Eastern Kazakhstan Region. The Uvs-Nuur complex includes the Ubsunurskay Kotlovina Biosphere Reserve (Zapovednik) (3,232 km²) of the Tuva Republic of Russia and 8 PAs in Mongolia (Tsagaan Shuvuut Uul Strict PA, Uvs Nuur Strict PA, Tesiin gol Nature Reserve, Altan Els Strict PA, Khankhokhii National Park, Khyargas Nuur National Park and Turgen Uul Strict PA) totalling some 14,000 km² in Uvs Aimag. A threats assessment was completed in 2012, along with the drafting of the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion Conservation Strategy (WWF, 2012).

A Pamir International PA has been proposed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the eastern Pamirs where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and China meet (Schaller, 2005; WCS, 2007). This would encompass 8 existing or proposed Reserves, including one in China, two in Pakistan, two in Tajikistan and three in Afghanistan, totalling 35,165 km². The most significant PAs containing snow leopards are Zorkul SR (870 km²) in Tajikistan, Wakhan NP (11,457 km²) in Afghanistan, Taxkorgan NR (15,863 km²) in China, and Khunjerab NP (6,150 km²) in Pakistan.

Nepal has signed agreements with China and India to facilitate biodiversity and forest management, encompassing six border PAs under the initiative known as the Sacred Himalayan Landscape. This effort covers about 39,021 km² in the eastern and central Himalaya, with 74% located in Nepal, 24% in Sikkim and Darjeeling areas of India, and the remaining 2% in Bhutan (HMGN/MFSC, 2006). The large Qomolangma Nature Reserve (34,000 km²) is located on the Chinese side.

The Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL) Conservation Initiative is a collaborative effort of ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) and regional partners from China, India and Nepal. It represents a sacred landscape that is significant to hundreds of millions of people in Asia and around the globe, as well as the source of four large rivers (Indus, Brahmaputra, Karnali, and Sutlej), which serve as lifelines for large parts of Asia and the Indian subcontinent (for further information, see

Bilateral initiatives exist in the Kangchendzonga landscape between Bhutan and Nepal and India and Nepal. Potential for transboundary cooperation also exists in the Central and Inner Tien Shan, where Naryn and Sarychat-Ertash NRs in Kyrgyzstan could be connected to Tomur Reserve in China if the proposed Sary-Jaz conservation area in eastern Kyrgyzstan is realized.

One example of cross-border cooperation on the ground is represented by a joint survey of the Kyrgyz Range on the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan by scientists from both counties (FFI 2007). Asia-Irbis functioned for several years as a network connecting snow leopard researchers and conservationists in the four countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) and a workshop to foster cooperation on snow leopards within the same region was held in Bishkek in 2006 (FFI 2007). A meeting in Bhutan in 2005 fulfilled a similar function for South Asia (WWF 2005).

The Snow Leopard Network itself was established after the Snow Leopard Survival Summit in 2002 as a means of coordinating and exchanging information between range countries and international experts. For information and a detailed bibliography on snow leopards, visit the SLN website:

Appendix 4 lists PAs for all range countries that are located within approximately 10-30 km of an international boundary. These areas, as well as all other documented non-transboundary PAs are shown in figure 11.1. This information was compiled from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) ( and the National Snow Leopard Environmental Protection Plans (NSLEPs), supplemented by listings published by country PA agencies, NGOs and INGOs. Experts were contacted where information was known to be contradictory, out-of-date or lacked recently proposed or established PAs (e.g. Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia). In any event, there is an urgent need to both validate and update the database on PAs within snow leopard range on a country-by-country basis.


FFI (2007). Central Asia snow leopard workshop, Bishkek 19-21 June 2006. Meeting Report. Fauna & Flora International, Cambridge, UK.

IUCN-WCPA (2001). Transboundary Protected Areas for peace and cooperation. A. Best Practice Protected Areas Guideline Series # 7, IUCN-World Conservation Union, Gland. 111 pages. Available for download from:

Jackson, R., Mishra, C., McCarthy, T.M. and Ale, S.B. (2010). Snow Leopards: conflict and conservation. Chapter 18, pages 417-430: Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids (D.W. Macdonald and A.J. Loveridge, (Eds). Oxford University Press, UK, 762 pages.

Schaller G.B. (2005). A winter survey of Marco Polo sheep in the southern Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan. Report to Wildlife Conservation Society, New York.

Singh, J.J. and Jackson, R. (1999). Transfrontier Conservation Areas: creating opportunities for conservation, peace and the snow leopard in Central Asia. International Journal of Wilderness, 5(2), 7-12.

WCS (2007). The Pamirs Transboundary Protected Area: A report on the 2006 International workshop on wildlife and habitat conservation in the Pamirs. Wildlife Conservation Society, Unpub. Report prepared by Wildlife Conservation Society in partnership with USAID, and the Governments of Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.

World Bank (2013). Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program: Conference Document for Endorsement (71 pages) and Annex Document of Complete National Programs (234 pages). Washington DC. Available for download from:

WWF (2005). Proceedings of the WWF South Asian Regional Consultative Workshop for Snow Leopard Conservation, Paro, Bhutan. Report compiled by E. Wikramanayake and V. Moktan, WWF-Bhutan Program, Thimphu. 81 pages.

WWF (2012). Report on Altai-Sayan Ecoregion Conservation Strategy, draft dated 29 June.

Figure 11.1: PAs located within approximately 10-30 km of an international boundary. These areas, as well as all other documented non-transboundary PAs are shown. GIS dataset, supplemented by listings published by country PA agencies, NGOs and INGOs. (Map prepared by the Snow Leopard Conservancy).

Existing and Potential Transboundary Protected Areas in Relation to Snow Leopard Range.

Click to download PDF of this Map.

Figure 11_1 Existing_and_Potential_Transboundary_PAs_in_relation_to_Snow_Leopard range_ SLSS201_1