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.”
A zoo in Kazakhstan’s business capital, Almaty, is facing mounting criticism about mistreatment of its animals since the agonizing death of a six-year old tigress called Kuralai.
Almaty zoo deputy director Agibai Azhibayev announced on May 8 that the tiger had died, although pictures of the emaciated and sore-ridden animal had circulated on social media for weeks before, sparking a wave of indignation.
Azhibayev said an autopsy would be carried out to establish the exact causes of Kuralai’s demise.
Zoo director Kanat Karimov said in 2015 that the tiger had been diagnosed with pneumonia and was being treated with anti-viral and anti-fungal drugs. But the cat’s condition deteriorated sharply at the start of this year, when she stopped eating and began to lose weight. Eventually, sores broke out all over Kuralai’s body and she grew so weak that she was unable to even stand up.
This state of affairs only became public knowledge after distressed zoo staff took photos and posted them online.
At the invitation of the zoo’s board of trustees, the chief veterinarian for Moscow zoo, Mikhail Alshinetsky, was eventually summoned to carry out a medical examination. His verdict was that all treatment was proving futile and recommended euthanizing the tiger. That advice was spurned by the Almaty zoo officials, however.
"That is his personal opinion, and we are seeing improvements in Kuralai’s wellbeing and are hoping we can cure her,” Azhibayev told KTK television station.
But the treatments being adopted by the Almaty zoo have appalled many animal lovers, who have accused the zoo’s management of cruelty.
After momentarily humbling the country’s parliament, the slacktivist community in Kyrgyzstan has now set its sights on dolphin wranglers.
Online indignation began brewing and spilling onto all major news outlets after a mobile dolphinarium cropped up in the snowy outskirts of the capital, Bishkek.
Animal lovers say the whole business is a cruel travesty — organizers are dismissive, insisting that the marine animals will actually enjoy their sojourn in the chilly landlocked nation.
Backers of the dolphinarium in the Mayor’s office have said it will run from later this month into May and that visitors will be able to swim with the creatures.
Traveling dolphinariums are banned in many places in the world, with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Russia proving active exceptions, according to one advocacy group. Other countries like Kyrgyzstan lack legislation either regulating or outlawing them.
Given the ex-Soviet region’s sad zoos and old-fashioned approach to circus animals, opponents of the new facility in Bishkek say they have no reason to believe the quartet of dolphins and one whale will be well looked after.
"All dolphinariums are exploitation, non-dependent on size and comfort. Dolphins should live in the ocean!" boomed one Facebook commentator.
Cruelty to animals has hit the headlines in Kazakhstan following the arrest of a young man for demonstrating his wrestling technique on a donkey.
This is the latest in a series of stories of abuse of animals – ranging from donkeys and dogs to wolf and bear cubs – that have caused public consternation.
Video of the man hurling the donkey over his head and onto the ground appeared online in early November, prompting police to launch an investigation after an outcry among social media users.
Police later arrested two unidentified suspects, a 19-year-old man and his accomplice, who was behind the video camera. The latter can be heard on the film screaming with laughter and making comparisons with “kures” — the traditional Kazakh sport of wrestling — as the donkey is thrown into the air and makes several hard landings onto its back and its head.
The two Almaty residents will face charges of cruelty to animals, police spokeswoman Zhanar Tolegenkyzy said in remarks broadcast by Khabar TV on November 9.
This is not first story involving animal abuse to hit the headlines in Kazakhstan of late.
In July, four men were arrested after appearing in a video showing them torturing some wolf cubs that they had caught. One attempted to decapitate one of the new-borns with a spade.
Soccer fans in Kazakhstan are blaming a European animal rights group for keeping their team out of the prestigious UEFA Champions League.
Shakhter Karagandy lost the second of two games to Scotland's Celtic on August 28 after the European football body UEFA told the team it was prohibited from slaughtering any more sheep ahead of competitions. In Glasgow, Celtic beat Shakhter Karagandy with an aggregate score of 3-2, booting the team from the playoff round of the competition.
Shakhter had sacrificed a wooly black ram shortly before its win against Celtic in Astana on August 21. Outraged, animal-rights group PETA urged UEFA and its head Michel Platini to ban the Kazakh club from repeating the slaughter in Glasgow.
"We are deeply disturbed that a sheep was stabbed to death in an attempt to bring good luck to the Kazakh team," The Guardian quoted PETA Associate Director Mimi Bekhechi as saying. "We hope Mr Platini will agree that animal sacrifice has no place in modern society, and we hope UEFA will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that the beautiful game is not further stained with the blood of animals."
A woman in Turkmenistan has sent an open letter to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov protesting his officials’ “barbaric” killing of stray dogs and cats.
Human rights activist Natalia Shabunts writes that state sanitation workers travel around Ashgabat, the capital, feeding the furry feral creatures sausages poisoned with insecticide or stuffed with sharp objects. As a result of the cheap, weak poison, many animals take a long time to die, often writhing in pain on the streets in front of children.
This gruesome approach is not a surprise from Berdymukhamedov’s regime. The all-powerful president is no lover of cats and dogs.
As a WikiLeaked US State Department cable explained, the president was so spooked when a cat crossed his motorcade’s path in 2009 that he fired the officer in charge of safeguarding that stretch of road. Apparently Berdymukhamedov feared the dashing cat portended an assassination attempt.
In 2011, an Ashgabat man was taken into police custody for walking his dog as the president’s motorcade drove past. The man was told he could chose between having his dog shot and serving 15 days in jail. In the end, he served seven days of the 15-day sentence.
In general, Turkmenistan’s policy towards animals is schizophrenic. Though Berdymukhamedov clearly lacks empathy for street dogs, his regime has proclaimed the alabai, a canine long used by Turkmen shepherds to guard their flocks, a national treasure. Exporting them is prohibited.