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Kazakh Wildlife Ranger's Killers Receive Life Sentences In High-Profile Case

The death of wildlife ranger Erlan Nurghaliev sparked widespread outrage in Kazakhstan.
The death of wildlife ranger Erlan Nurghaliev sparked widespread outrage in Kazakhstan.

QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's central city of Qaraghandy has sentenced three men to life in prison in the high-profile case of a ranger who was allegedly beaten to death during a confrontation with suspected poachers.

On February 21, Judge Qairat Qasymov found Qairat Aqshanov, Berik Akhmetov, and Nurlan Shukildikov guilty of murdering Erlan Nurghaliev, attempting to murder his colleague Pyotr Nitsyk, and illegally hunting the endangered saiga antelope.

Four other defendants, Berden Bazarov, Batyrbek Qaiyrbekov, Zharaskhan Myrzabaev, and Aidos Akimov, were found guilty of organizing illegal hunts and they were each sentenced to six years in prison.

Nurghaliev's killing sparked outrage in the Central Asian nation and highlighted the threats to saiga, an endangered species of antelope protected by law in the former Soviet republic.

The deadly incident took place on January 13, 2019 near Lake Tengiz, about 150 kilometers southwest of the capital, Nur-Sultan, when Nurghaliev and Nitsyk stopped a car they suspected was carrying men who had hunted saiga antelopes.

The suspected poachers attacked the two wildlife rangers, severely beating Nurghaliev and hitting Nitsyk in the head with a rifle butt.

Nurghaliev, 52, died two days later in hospital without regaining consciousness.

In July 2019, men poaching saiga shot dead another wildlife ranger, Qanysh Nurtazinov and wounded his partner, Samat Ospanov, in the northwestern region of Aqmola.

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