By Rashid Shirinov
Azerbaijan and Russia plan to create a reserve for the restoration of leopard population in the Caucasus in the near future.
The reserve is proposed to become a part of Zagatala State Nature Reserve (Azerbaijan) and Federal Reserve Tlyaratinsky (Republic of Dagestan). Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia Sergey Donskoy instructed to finalize the Program on restoration (reintroduction) of Caucasian leopard in the Caucasus until the end of 2016.
“We are interested in support of the program by colleagues from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Donskoy told media.
The Caucasian leopard is one of the biggest of the eight recognized sub species of leopard. They live mainly in remote, mountainous habitats which can range from dry and arid areas to forested regions and even extend up into snowy mountain ranges.
The Caucasian leopard is found across several different countries, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Georgia. Sadly, in all these countries the leopard population has been devastated by uncontrolled hunting and habitat destruction.
There are thought to be fewer than 1,300 Caucasian leopard left in the wild, while their number is around 25 in the southwestern part of the Caucasus region.
Until the early 2000s, very little information was available about leopards living in the territory of Azerbaijan. But thanks to the studies of past 15 years, Azerbaijani zoologists discovered their traces in Hirkan forest, Nakhchivan and Mingachevir water reservoir.
With the aim of protecting and increasing the number of wild nature, Azerbaijani IDEA Public Union identified the Caucasus Big Five project which envisages protection of Caucasian leopard.
As part of the “Protection of Leopards” project, IDEA jointly with local and international organizations, held various events aimed at public education, including summer camps, scientific seminars and workshops for students, as well as youth competitions.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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