BirdLife: The Magazine Jan-Mar 2018 - Page 58

meet the partner Reversing the conservation “Brain Drain” in Uzbekistan This young, up-and-coming Partner has achieved a huge amount in a short space of time – but its future is in jeopardy Rosa Gleave w hat do you picture when you think of Uzbekistan? Probably vast arid desert, unspoilt ancient tombs and the rich history of the Silk Road. But there’s more. Not only does it possess the sweeping Kyzylkum Desert, but also a share of the Tien Shan mountains, the Ustyurt Plateau and the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, along with hundreds of wetlands. This stunning collection of habitats is home to 461 species of bird, 30 of which are globally threatened. The Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds (UzSPB, BirdLife Partner) began life as a small group created to carry out the Central Asian Important Bird & Biodiversity Area (IBA) Programme. There at the very start was Oleg Kashkarov, the current Awareness Raising and Education Coordinator for UzSPB, today one of 58 Surveying for Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius Photo UzSPB 0 over half the world’s population of the sociable lapwing is found at the talimarzhan iba only two members of full-time staff working for the organisation. A visit to BirdLife’s head office in Cambridge inspired the group’s transformation into a new NGO, a dream officially realised in 2007 thanks to funding from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). UzSPB was part of a new breed of NGO in the country, one of just three created that year, in a place where the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s had all but destroyed the economy. Many trained environmental researchers had been forced to emigrate then to find paid employment, resulting in a conservation ‘brain drain’. UzSPB began pioneering a bold new concept in Uzbekistan: one Kashkarov describes as “an NGO as an open association of professionals birdlife • Jan-Mar 2018