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Within the framework for the project on the Development for Cultural and Ecotourism in the Mountainous Regions of Central and South Asia, there is very positive news concerning activities carried out by UNESCO project partners in Ladakh, India - the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC), in Murghab, Tajikistan (ACTED), and in the mountainous region surrounding Lake Issy Kul, Kyrgyzstan (NoviNomad).

Chosen from among 700 nominations, SLC's Himalayan Homestays project has received a "Highly Commended" Award for the 2005 First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards under the category of Endangered Species Conservation. Already short-listed for the 2004 Responsible Tourism Awards under the same category, this reflects the interest the project has attracted in the media and development community, both regionally and internationally. Sponsored by the British online travel agent responsibletravel.com, in association with The Times, World Travel Market and Geographical Magazine, the awards recognize companies and organizations that are making a significant commitment to ‘responsible' tourism. They look for projects which make a positive contribution to conservation and the economies of local communities, while minimizing the negative impacts that tourism can have.

In terms of fitting into the Endangered Species Category of the Responsible Tourism Awards, the project is dedicated to promoting community based conservation of the endangered snow leopard, its prey and habitat, under a linked strategy that assists local herders and rural communities to reduce economic loss from depredation of livestock by predators, along with increasing household incomes from culturally and environmentally sensitive sound tourism. It generates additional income for local people by helping to offset livestock losses caused by snow leopard and other predatory attacks. Therefore, the project is working to reverse current people-wildlife conflict into a winning situation for all, while at the same time promoting cultural conservation. This all translates to tourism that delivers benefits to local people and the environment, while at the same time providing an authentic cultural and human contact for visitors and hosts alike.

Full details of the Award winners and a PDF file of the brochure are available at http://www.responsibletravel.com/awards. Through these awards, the project will receive an extraordinary amount of publicity, already being covered by The Times (http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,19909-1877294_1,00.html) and soon by The Guardian and Geographical Magazine.

The same project has also been awarded the 2005 Global Vision Award for Community Outreach, given by Travel & Leisure Magazine in New York, and has been featured in the August 2005 issue of National Geographic Adventure magazine, following the Snow Leopard Conservancy and their first winter trek to Ladakh in search of the snow leopard.

In addition, activities carried out by a UNESCO project partner in Murghab, Tajikistan have been featured in the most recent edition of Lonely Planet for Central Asia and activities carried out by another project partner in the mountainous region surrounding Lake Issy Kul in Kyrgyzstan have been featured in The Silk Roads Trail Blazer Guide.