In northern Kyrgyzstan, the Ak-Bulun peninsula is part of the chain of water basins of the Issyk-Kul lake, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The Ak-Bulun peninsula is recognized as an important place for resting and feeding of more than 80,000 birds during their winter migration, including species identified by the IUCN Red List, such as the Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus). However, this “beautiful place, which local people were proud of, turned into a place that attracted poachers waiting each season for migrating birds to come. This caused a reduction of the number of birds that spend their wintertime at the lake”, according to Ermek Shabykeev, leader of the Ak-Bulun Eco community-based organization (CBO).
As such, the ICCA-GSI project, under Phase 1, supports the Ak-Bulun CBO and 30 village members in establishing a community micro reserve to conserve migrating birds, including the red-listed species. Through participatory discussions with the community members and local government councils, the government granted 380 hectares of land of the peninsula and nearby territories to Ak-Bulun Eco CBO. In 2020, the village members installed fences to protect the area from poachers and roaming livestock. They are in the process of building observation points for birdwatchers and negotiating their active participation in ecotourism practices with tourist companies to ensure a sustainable source of income in managing the micro reserve.
While the micro reserve is expected to be fully completed by October 2021, it is already attracting birdwatchers and students from the schools around the area. Additionally, during their bird observation visits, ornithologists from the National Academy of Science explain the importance of the birds to visitors and local community members.