Saving Armenia’s Leopard

The World Land Trust (WLT) mission is to protect and sustainably manage natural ecosystems of the world to conserve their biodiversity. Focussing on threatened habitats and endangered species, WLT works with local conservation partners who protect the land that is saved and engage support and commitment from the people who live there.

There are fewer than 1,300 Caucasian leopards left in the wild, mainly in Iran, and as few as 10-15 in Armenia. The project aims to protect a vital leopard corridor by conserving threatened habitat and wildlife in Armenia’s Caucasian Wildlife Refuge. This project will also benefit other threatened species such as the Syrian Brown Bear, Grey Wolf and Caspian Red Deer. The main threats to the habitat are illegal hunting, overgrazing and unsustainable collection of wild crops. As well as habitat restoration, the project will fund camera traps and field surveys to monitor wildlife. These measures will compliment on-going efforts to prevent illegal activities in the reserve that include employing rangers and raising local awareness of the benefits of nature conservation. The project will also support the development of sensitive recreational facilities for controlled access on foot, bike and horseback. New trails will be created which will help local people to generate income through nature-based tourism. EOCA’s funding will:
– Enhance habitat for key wildlife species through planting and care of 4,000 trees, benefitting particularly the bezoar goat, Armenian mouflon and Syrian brown bear. There will be an open day with tree planting activities
– Quantify wildlife species and abundance via camera trap and field surveys
– Enhance public access to the area through extension and maintenance of 5 recreational trails, development and printing of flora and fauna brochures, creation of hiking maps and interpretation panels, and the recruiting and training of new B&B host.

The Update

WLT reported to EOCA in November 2014 that the project was progressing well.  Water supplies and ground preparation for tree planting was completed and the trees will be planted in Spring 2015 once the weather is warmer.  10 camera traps have been purchased and positioned, enabling monitoring of the wildlife in the area using stills and films generated by the cameras.
Between June and September 2014, a 6 km hiking trail was mapped and routed.  More hiking and horseback riding trails and a modest picnic area are being developed in the area.  During 2015, 4 more recreational trails will be completed, enabling more hiking and horse-riding tours, and providing job opportunities for local people.  B&B hosts have received training on B&B promotion and English to enable them to attract and host more eco tourists in the area.

Image: Armenian Leopard. Image credit: Misad