Canid Conservation

The Status of the Wolf Population in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan

CJ Hazell

State University of New York, Environment Science and Forestry, 133 Illick Hall, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY 13210;


The countries that made up the former Soviet Union are home to the largest existing wild gray

wolf (Canis lupus) population. This makes the status of wolves in these areas of particular

importance. Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet republic located in Central Asia that became independent

in 1991. Russia and other former Soviet republics with wolves reported in 1999 that their

wolf populations were either stable or increasing. Kyrgyz officials also consider their wolf

populations to be increasing since independence. At the same time, officials report that populations

of deer, wild boar, and other wildlife are decreasing drastically. Between January and May

1999, I made seven field trips in southern Kyrgyzstan to look for evidence to support official

reports. I visited two zapovedniks (strictly protected areas), one national park and two national

forests (less protected), and two rural areas with no wildlife protection to look for field signs and

to collect anecdotal information from local villagers. I found abundant wolf sign at only two sites

and abundant deer sign at only one site. Villagers tended to say that there were many wolves, but

they were 20 km away. They also said that deer, boar, and other wildlife were difficult to find

now. This evidence supported official reports that wildlife populations were decreasing but

contradicted reports that wolf populations were increasing. Government records show that most

species of game animals and sheep, the primary livestock animal, have decreased by close to

50% in the south since independence. Data also showed that wolf populations in the south have

dropped by 43%. This evidence suggests that official reports that wolf populations in Kyrgyzstan

are stable or increasing are inaccurate and wolf populations may actually be declining.