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“Russian” elite use choppers to hunt rare wildlife: activists

Posted by Kris Roman on March 10, 2009

snow-leopard-bgIn the 1990s deer and bison were hunted from helicopters using machine guns, said Chestin. The problem continues today, with snow leopards and Siberian tigers hunted from helicopters in such areas as Yakutia.

Russian environmentalists vowed a campaign against top officials who hunt endangered species from helicopters, after a crash in January highlighted the practice.

 

The Russian chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said it had lodged a complaint with prosecutors over the investigation into a January 9 helicopter crash in the mountainous Altai region, alleging irregularities in the probe.

Seven people were killed in the crash that took place during what environmentalists say was a trip to hunt the region’s endangered Argali mountain sheep.

Among the dead was President Dmitry Medvedev’s representative in the Duma lower house of parliament, Alexander Kosopkin.


“It’s a classic example of corruption when officials use helicopters, for which of course they haven’t paid, for such unprincipled, immoral, out-of-season hunting,” said local WWF head Igor Chestin at a news conference.

An activist from the Altai region, Akai Kynyev, said he and other opponents were trying to secure the resignation of the entire Altai leadership, after its deputy governor resigned in the wake of the incident.

“We want the resignation of the whole leadership team…. They blame the pilot and try to claim that those on the helicopter didn’t know they would be hunting mountain sheep,” which are traditionally revered in the region, said Kynyev.

“We’re deeply offended by this form of illegal hunting and the attempt to hide what happened from the people and to blacken the names of those who try to make public what happened,” he told journalists.

Hunting has long been a sign of status among officials in this vast and sparsely populated country.

In the 1990s deer and bison were hunted from helicopters using machine guns, said Chestin.

The problem continues today, with snow leopards and Siberian tigers hunted from helicopters in such areas as Yakutia, he said.

Calls by AFP to seek comment from the Altai administration went unanswered on Friday.

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