By Laman Ismayilova
Azerbaijan, one of the world’s lesser-known biodiversity hotspots, is home to the Caucasian Leopard.
The Caucasian, Persian or West Asian leopard, as it’s also known, used to be widespread throughout the Caucasus. Numbers fell dramatically in the 20th century, largely because of hunting, persecution, trapping and poisoning.
Number of the Caucasian leopards that have been related by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to the list of endangered species is below 1,000 in the Middle East and Asia, and up to 25 in the south-west part of the Caucasian region, at the border of Azerbaijan with Iran.
Until recently, very little information was available about leopards living in the territory of Azerbaijan. But following the studies, zoologists discovered their traces in Hirkan forest, Nakhchivan and Mingachevir water reservoir.
Considered symbol of the Caucasus and the region’s main living beauty, leopards, today are protected under the Caucasus Big Five and Protection of Leopards projects by IDEA Public Association, which holds various events aimed at public education, including summer camps, scientific seminars and workshops for students.
Raising awareness of the endangered status of the Caucasian leopard is an important component in preventing poaching. As part of a public information campaign a summer camp with the slogan “Protecting Caucasian leopards!” was held in July for children from the southern regions of Azerbaijan.
The camp was organized by IDEA Public Association, the Baku office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Education, Trend Life reported.
Over 70 schoolchildren from Masalli, Astara and Lankaran regions took part in the event.
The main goal of the summer camp was to educate schoolchildren living near the habitat of Caucasian leopards, about this unique wild animal and advocating for its protection.
The participants joined various seminars, quizzes and competitions, as well as watched a feature film by wildlife photographer and filmmaker Adrian Stern "Most wanted leopard in the world."
The schoolchildren also visited Hirkan National Park, where Caucasian leopards are protected. In the park, participants of the camp got acquainted with different species of plants.
Overall, IDEA Public Union, founded by Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Leyla Aliyeva always draws attention to the Azerbaijani flora and fauna issues. The campaign regularly arranges various activities and projects aimed at the problems of environmental and animal protection.
Since 2014 IDEA Public Union organizes an annual camp on the theme of the environment and biodiversity. During this period, summer camps were attended by more than 300 students from Azerbaijan's Salyan, Shamkir, Goranboy, Samukh, Gakh, Sheki, Masalli, Jalilabad, Yardimli, Lankaran, Astara and Goygol regions.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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