Ili-Balkhash | WWF
© Maxim Levitin

Ili-Balkhash

Wild tigers completely disappeared from Central Asia in the 1960s due to habitat loss and uncontrolled hunting and poaching.

Now a ground-breaking plan to return these majestic felines to their ancestral home is underway led by the government of Kazakhstan in partnership with WWF.

This tiger reintroduction would make Kazakhstan be the first country in the world to bring wild tigers back to where they have been extinct for nearly half a century. So far, tiger relocation projects have only been achieved within national borders and in areas that are already considered current tiger habitats.

A new nature reserve was designated in June 2018 around Ili-Balkhash, a riverine forest region, starting a flurry of conservation activities to lay the groundwork for the eventual return of the wild tiger. The reintroduction of tiger prey species has begun (to accelerate prey recovery) and the government, with support from WWF, planted the first 2100 seedlings of native trees to support habitat regeneration.

Making sure the program is a success won’t be easy; together, WWF and the government of Kazakhstan will  tackle poaching and illegal activities, train and equip rangers, create thriving prey populations and work closely with people living in the area to ensure the projects positively impact their lives.