The “Snow Leopard Foundation” is an international private charity foundation for snow leopard preservation. The foundation is private because its founder is the prominent Kazakhstani businessman, Maecenas and public figure Nurali Aliyev.
Likewise, the foundation is international in scope thanks to international organizations that will assist in the reestablishment of the snow leopard population. Moreover, any country where the snow leopard ranges will be able to benefit from the methodologies which are being trialed and tested at this foundation and may implement snow leopard breeding and reintroduction programs within their own countries based on the Kazakhstani model.
In honor of the opening of the Snow Leopard Foundation, a grand Gala dinner was organized in Almaty and the first of its kind auction took place where monies were collected for snow leopard preservation. The charitable auction offered a number of exclusive lots and prizes to be won. Meanwhile, each of the hundreds of guests was well aware that collected funds would be going toward an important goal for the entire country – the preservation of Kazakhstan’s symbol, the snow leopard. This feeling imparted a patriotic spirit to the participants in the auction.
Additionally, those individuals and entities who had donated the auction lots and were at the auction in person offered the winners exclusive bonuses.
To skip ahead so as to present an example, the representative of the Bulldozer Group offered the winner his choice of a restaurant where he could spend an extravagant evening. Due to these extra incentives, the auction lots acquired additional value, and a competitive atmosphere was felt among the guests as they strove to win their favored auction lots through higher and higher bids.
Thus, the sponsor of the first auction lot was presented by the abovementioned company Bulldozer Group. The lot included a two-day trip to Dubai in the five-star hotel One and Only, a luxurious dinner in a first-class restaurant of the winner’s choice, as well as a VIP table in one of the elite nightclubs of Dubai. The winning bidder of that lot who wished to remain anonymous noted that for him it was a great honor to contribute to a charity dedicated to the preservation of the snow leopard: “I hope that the funds donated to winning will help a snow leopard kit be born. That would be the greatest happiness for us!”
The second auction lot was an autographed bicycle from Alexandr Vinokurov, as well as a bicycle lesson and race with this celebrated athlete. The person who acquired this bicycle called the creation of the Snow Leopard Foundation “an absolutely necessary thing for our country, a great delight!”
Also auctioned off were Gennady Golovkin’s autographed boxing gloves and an exclusive trip for two to South Africa with the explorer Johan Nilson. (It is worth noting that Johan Nilson is the ambassador of the International Union for Nature Preservation, the honorable goodwill ambassador of Nepal, the president of the Swedish association “Everest Summiteers Association,” and the founder of the company “Aidbox.” This Swedish explorer has traveled on more than 30 expeditions in 145 countries of the world. One of his expeditions, which lasted 18 months and whose route spanned from the South to the North Poles, was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015).
Likewise available at the auction were an exclusive designer watch from Jacob Arabo of Jacob & Co., two trips to Monaco and a meeting with the prince of Monaco, a private lesson with DJ Smash, and – drumroll – three paintings by Adrien Brody.
Initially there were only two paintings by Brody that were up for offer auction, however, Adrien made a generous gesture and donated three of his paintings. The famous actor announced to the guests “We have done something significant. I was speaking about generosity and friends like Nurali motivating us all. Motivating me and my own generosity. I have offered two works of mine from my new series, which I have been preparing for show in Florence. But now I was asked to donate the third one, which will bring one total to $1 million! $ 1 million to save the snow leopards!”
The auction took place quickly and festively, with a lively atmosphere of good-natured competition. In total $1,528,000 was collected. This hefty sum will go toward financing the building of the Center “Kingdom of Snow Leopard.”
Over the course of the evening the organizers and guests of the gala dinner described the Center Kingdom of Snow Leopard. In a word, all of the guests were leading figures in their respective fields. As such, the gala dinner had representatives from international organizations for the preservation of the environment; leading zoologists and honored guests from Sweden, the USA, China, Russia, Monaco, the UAE, the Netherlands, Macedonia, Denmark, France, and Turkey; representatives of the government; Kazakhstani and foreign businessmen; and national and international artists and other public figures.
The founder of the new foundation Nurali Aliyev personally invited such guests as Hollywood actor Adrien Brody (whose generosity at this event was outlined above), the famous Swedish explorer Johan Nilson, the vice president of Jack Ma’s “Paradise International Foundation” Wang Dezhi, the representative of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Milutin Gatsby, and others.
Nurali Aliyev, the founder of the Snow Leopard Foundation, set the tone for the whole event. In his welcoming speech, he admitted that he had long contemplated establishing such a foundation and eventually concluded that it is categorically necessary to create a system to reestablish the population of snow leopards in Kazakhstan.
“The snow leopard is the symbol of independent Kazakhstan. However, in less than a quarter of a century the population of these animals in Kazakhstan has decreased by more than 40%” he underscored.
According to the unique program “Kingdom of Snow Leopard” a center for breeding and rehabilitating snow leopards to the wild is planned to be built on the territory of the Ile Alatau National Nature Park of more than 500 hectares. The territory will be cordoned off to enable to animals to be free from encounters with poachers or tourists. It will be furnished with photo and video recording equipment, as well. Most importantly, however, is that scientists will supervise all of its activities.
The head of the mammal department at the Institute of Zoology Aleksei Grachev and representative of a lineage of academics who have spent decades dedicated to studying the snow leopard noted in his speech that the Snow Leopard Foundation’s work will be based on a strict scientific approach.
Grachev recounted this sorrowful statistic: in the middle of the past century the population of snow leopards began to drop – in the 1980s the population stood at 200 individuals. Currently, scientists estimate 110-120 snow leopards reside in Kazakhstan. The reason for this precipitous shrinking in population is poaching and human economic activity in the mountains. There is precious little time before the results are catastrophic – the disappearance of the snow leopard from Kazakhstan. To ensure this does not happen, Snow Leopard Foundation has developed a long-term plan whose end result will be to release rehabilitated snow leopards into their natural environment.
The center for breeding and rehabilitating snow leopards will consist of a series of enclosures where snow leopard breeding and reintroduction to natural habitats will take place. This territory will reflect the natural environment of snow leopards and will allow them to acquire specific behaviors – first and foremost, an instinct to flee encounters with humans and the ability to independently hunt prey. “Every enclosure will fulfill a certain function,” explained the zoologist. “In one of the enclosures snow leopard kits will grow up with their mother to the age of 10-12 months, where they will socialize with their peers. Then they will be transferred to another enclosure with more varied terrain, where, until they are approximately 2 years old, they will learn the skills of hunting. Subsequently, the young snow leopards will be transferred to a larger enclosure, where there will be more natural environments and prey available to hunt. Upon complete rehabilitation, the animals will be fully capable of independent life and will be released into the wild.”
If Center is successful, its methodology will be used by scientists of other countries, because not only in Kazakhstan, but across the entire globe there have been no successful experiments with breeding, rehabilitating, and reintroducing snow leopards into their natural environments. The question lies in whether it will work. Aleksei Grachev is certain that the potential of Kazakhstani scientists will enable them to accomplish this mission.
The well-known Swedish explorer Johan Nilson, who was awarded the title of the new Ambassador of the Snow Leopard Foundation and the task of representing the interests of this international foundation abroad, is also optimistic. In his speech at the gala dinner, Nilson noted that “At one point they said that it was impossible to send a man into space, but humanity accomplished it. Since then, I personally never say that anything is impossible. A project of this scope is the first of its kind, and its creation and realization deserves respect. We need to work slowly, carefully, and most importantly not to stop going and get it done.”
As it turns out, the creation of the Center will also enable the development of tourism, but “only if the scientists give their permission,” the acting director of Snow Leopard Foundation Yerzhan Yerkinbaev repeatedly emphasized. However, if the scientists do give their approval, then from a neighboring range tourists may observe the life of snow leopards via binoculars. Infrastructure and a visitors’ center as well as viewing platforms will be built for tourists. This business model garnered approval from Wang Dezhi, vice president and senior scientific collaborator at the Paradise International Foundation. “This is interesting, it is a good strategy – a means to earn money for preserving animals,” he expressed.
Wang Dezhi also informed those gathered at the gala dinner that since 2015 the international foundation the Paradise International Foundation, which is headed by Jack Ma and Pony Ma, has created 5 preserves with a total territory of more than 400,000 sq. m.
“The snow leopard is the symbol of Kazakhstan, just as the panda is the symbol of China. Care for these symbolic animals is incredibly important for the world’s nature preservation. China is also interested in the protection of the snow leopard, as this unique predator also lives in our country. Our foundation would be happy to collaborate with the Snow Leopard Foundation. We would be able to learn much from one another to work together on preserving and reintroducing the snow leopard to the wild,” noted Wang Dezhi in his speech.
As Nurali Aliyev observed in his presentation of this project, the snow leopard doesn’t recognize international borders. In this fashion, Aliyev called on guests at the event who had come from various countries to join forces in the preservation of these rare animals and to support the development of the Snow Leopard Foundation.
In turn, the representatives of international organizations such as the UNDP, the International Union of Nature Preservation, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), and others expressed their readiness to offer the new foundation expert and consulting support.
“More than 4,000 snow leopards exist in the entire world, and in the last 16 years their numbers have dwindled by 20%. Kazakhstan contains a mere 3% of the global population, but that is not a separate division. Kazakhstan has historically fulfilled the role as an ecological corridor for snow leopards. Today’s current division of snow leopards’ ranges into separate fragments could lead to the destruction of this species. Concurrently, the initiative to create a center for breeding snow leopards in Kazakhstan is unique – no one in the world has done this before, and no one has worked with the snow leopard before. Therefore, I speak for the representatives of all international nature protection organizations in offering our sincerest thanks to Nurali Aliyev for this project,” said the director of the Central Asia Program for WWF Grigory Mazmaniants.