Conservation efforts show results: new evidence of Leopards in Southern Armenia – WWF continues…



Posted on 29 January 2014  | 
The leopard in the Caucasus is highly endangered, only some small and isolated population nuclei remain in the whole eco-region. To ensure the survival of this charismatic species in the Caucasus, urgent conservation actions are needed. Significant investment into the conservation of the leopard is justified as this large cat is an umbrella species (its conservation also implies the preservation of the prey species and their habitats) as well as a flagship species (the leopard is the ideal carrier of the conservation idea to the local population between the range states and to the international conservation community).

Over the past 10 years WWF has undertaken considerable efforts to assess the status of the leopard in the Caucasus and developed approaches for its conservation. WWF together with the IUCN/SCC Cat Specialist Group initiated the development of a Regional Strategy on Leopard Conservation with involvement of different stakeholders of the Caucasus Ecoregion. The strategy was further evolved to the National Action Plans adopted by local governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Since 2002 WWF has been working with the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (MoNP), protected areas (PAs), the State Environmental Inspectorate, local communities, NGOs and scientific institutions of Armenia in order to promote conservation of leopard along southern Armenia. In the result of WWF close partnership with the MoNP a great achievement was made in development of PA system in the southern Armenia. Four new PAs (Arevik National Park, Zangezur and Khustup State Sanctuaries and Gnishik Protected Landscape) were established in southern Armenia and existing Shikahogh reserve was strengthened covering the habitats of leopard with the total area of 85,366 ha making 2.9% of territory of the country. This was achieved through support of different donors including CEPF, UNDP, GEF, Norwegian Government, CNF, WWF Germany, WWF Switzerland and WWF Norway.

In order to enforce protection of leopard WWF assisted Khosrov and Shikahogh State Reserves, Arevik National Park, Zangezur and Khustup Sanctuaries with necessary facilities and equipment (rangers’ shelters, off-road vehicles, road blocks, binoculars, photo-cameras, etc.).
To enforce protection of leopard outside of PAs WWF provided necessary equipment (off-road vehicles, binoculars, cameras, etc.) to the State Environmental Inspectorate of 3 regions in Armenia (Syunik, Vayots Dzor and Gegharqunik).

Monitoring of leopard and species of its prey is periodically conducted by WWF experts in partnership with PAs staff. Since 2005 camera-trapping monitoring of leopard and species of its prey has been introduced in Armenia by WWF in key habitats of leopard. Information about the status, habitats and conservation measures was summarized and published as separate issue of the IUCN Cat News.

A number of awareness raising and communication activities (school educational programs, campaigns, publications, competitions, etc.) has been conducted. Various community development projects were implemented in the communities adjacent to leopard habitats in order to provide alternative livelihood opportunities to local people.

These efforts brought the evident results: the appearance of leopard considerably increased in southern Armenia particularly during the last year. The leopard presence recorded by WWF in the period of Oct 2012 – Oct 2013 includes as follows:
  • 23.10.2012 – photo of footprints (presumably mature male) in southern Armenia
  • 17.12.2012 – photo of footprints (presumably mature male) and remnants of prey (wild boar) in southern Armenia
  • 15.07.2013 – photo of footprints (presumably young male) in southern Armenia
  • 14.09.2013 – photo of a mature male in southern Armenia
  • 16.09.2013 – photo of a mature male in southern Armenia
  • 17.09.2013 – two photos of a mature male in southern Armenia
  • 24.09.2013 – photo of a young female in southern Armenia
Nevertheless, continuous works still need to be done to achieve the goal stated in the Regional Strategy for Leopard Conservation in the Caucasus: “Ensure the conservation and sustainable management of viable meta-populations of leopard and wild prey and their habitats, and build sustainable coexistence mechanisms with local communities across the Caucasus ecoregion”. In this respect, involvement of partners is important for joining efforts and coordinated actions towards leopard conservation.

To achieve the main goal WWF will continue its work with the partners on enforcement of PAs system in Armenia as well as will work on consolidation of the PAs ecological network in the south of the country through establishment of ecological corridors.

For further information:

Alexander Malkhasyan
Project Coordinator
Tel: +374 10 58 89 83 (ext. 17)
Email: amalkhasyan@wwfcaucasus.org

Gera Voskanyan
Partnership and Communications Manager
Tel: +374 10 58 89 83 (ext. 14)
Email: gvoskanyan@wwfcaucasus.org
Caucasian Leopard, 2013
© WWF-Armenia Enlarge
Caucasian Leopard, 2013
© WWF-Armenia Enlarge
Caucasian Leopard, 2013
© WWF-Armenia Enlarge
Caucasian Leopard, 2013
© WWF-Armenia Enlarge
Map of Protected Areas of Southern Armenia
© WWF Armenia Enlarge
Khustup State Sanctuary
© WWF Armenia Enlarge
Zangezur Sanctuary
© WWF Armenia Enlarge

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