irbissmallDear human, I am a snow leopard living in Ile-Alatau National Park in Kazakhstan, which belongs to the Tien Shan mountain range. There are only 200 of us and we are on the edge of extinction. Our valley, Kok-Jailau, is now under threat: people want to privatize the land and build а ski resort here. Help us save our unique nature!

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The Kok-Jailau Valley lies just a few kilometres south of Almaty – the former capital of Kazakhstan and the country’s most vibrant city nowadays. The valley is a popular recreational place for those who like hiking, cycling, skiing, and horse riding. Hundreds flock here with their families and stay for a few hours or even a few days. Photo: M. Kaymirassov
 
The Snow Leopard is listed in the Red Book, and is among the most endangered animals in the world. The few remaining thousands still live in the mountains of Central and Eastern Asia. The leopard is able to jump as far as 15 meters and lives in altitudes of up to six thousand metres. Its body is adapted to living in the freezing climate. Photo: Saltore Saparbaev
 
The Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range is home to both apples and tulips. Almaty is translated from Kazakh as “place of apples”. This is the place from which apple trees and tulips spread to Europe. The Ostrovsky Tulip (Tulipa ostrowskiana) and Alatau Saffron (Crocus alatavicus) are the most valuable and endangered plants of Zailiyskiy Alatau. Photo: Natalya Frankovskaya
 
In Almaty, heavy air pollution is one of the major environmental challenges. It is caused by combination of intense car traffic and city location in the deep valley under mountains. Public transportation lacks necessary investments. Could you imagine yourself going for your vacation to the city locked in such alarming environment? Photo: Svetlana Spatar
 
Local people have had negative experiences with building and reconstruction of ski resorts in the area with more than 10 resorts operating around Almaty already. Building a resort first of all means that part of the mountains will be closed to the public. Kok-Jailau is currently one of only a handful of natural sites in close proximity to the city that are publicly accessible. Photo: Aleksandr Kof
 
The mountain ski resort in Kok-Jailau is supposed to host 10 thousand touristsdaily. The investment would come out of the public budget and is estimated to reach 470 mln USD. The project will require not only the construction of new buildings, but also water pipelines, power lines, and roads that criss-cross the fragile nature.
 
SOS Kok-Jailau SOS – Let’s save our mountains! Citizens of Almaty have already been protesting against construction of the ski resort in Ile-Alatau National Park for three years already. Recently, European and international organizations have also come to support the local people and their struggle to protect the unique wilderness of the mountains. Photo: Marat Getmanchuk
 
Here, in the mountains, one finds a special and friendly atmosphere, where strangers say hello to each other and start conversations… Many visitors come here regularly for decades and consider Kok-Jailau to be their second home. Nobody can imagine the fences of a private ski resort in this area. Photo: Mikhail Kaimirassov
 
More than 10 thousand people have signed a petition against the ski resort construction in the Ile-Alatau National Park. Such a large wave of public interest is rather unusual in Kazakhstan, where civil society is still underdeveloped and citizens do not often stand against projects promoted by authorities. Photo: Vadim Zhang
 
Local citizens have sent dozens of letters to various authorities and demanded the establishment of a dialogue. The development of tourism is in the interest of the public only when it obliges the protection of the national park. Violations of the law were reported at the public hearings. Photo: Svetlana Spatar
 
Local NGOs organized several shadow public hearings and gave the floor to independent experts in order to explain the importance of Ile-Alatau National Park to the citizens and share their concerns about the Kok-Jailau ski resort project. Rock climbing trips and cultural events are also organized so as to promote nature protection among citizens. Photo: Svetlana Spatar
 
Due to a lack of snow necessary for skiing in the valley, even in the wintertime, an investor has proposed that a snowmaking system be installed, using underground tanks. Such system would require 326 m3 of water every day. This in a country where a quarter of the population has no access to clean drinking water. Photo: Vadim Zhang
 
Unique coniferous forests cover the Kok-Jailau slopes. Schrenk’s spruce is endemic to the Tien Shan Mountains – they cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The ski resort project presumes 27 hectares of the forest will need to be cut down. Besides devastating the nature, it can increase the risk of landslides. Photо: Eugene Vostrikovs
 
14 years ago it was proposed that Ile-Alatau National Park be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Several projects oriented towards sustainable tourism exist, attracting more and more European tourists who admire the vast and almost untouched nature. Construction of new resorts is not the only way to develop the local economy. Photo: Vadim Zhang
 
 
 

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