Action on Azerbaijan’s few remaining Caucasian leopards

Wed 14 May 2014 07:05 GMT | 12:05 Local Time

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The future of the Caucasian (or Persian) leopard took a step forward last week with the establishment of a conservation agreement between Panthera, the world’s leading wild cat conservation organisation, and the International Dialogue for Environmental Action (IDEA) of Azerbaijan.

Panthera joined international wild cat scientists, environmental NGOs, and stakeholders at IDEA’s Caucasus Cat Summit in Baku recently to help plan the long-term preservation of the Caucasian leopard and Azerbaijan’s other unique wildlife.

Through this agreement, Panthera and IDEA have committed to assess the state and range of Azerbaijan’s leopards and, most importantly, work to develop conservation plans for the critically endangered population and train Azerbaijan’s scientists in research and conservation methodologies focused on saving the Caucasian leopard.

"We are delighted to have entered into this strategic cooperation agreement with Panthera, the world's leading wild cat conservation organisation", said Leyla Aliyeva, IDEA's founder. "Panthera has the expertise we need to carry out our programme of preserving the Caucasian leopard and its eco-system, an especially iconic symbol of Azerbaijan's cultural and natural heritage."

IDEA aims to foster conservation action among the country’s citizens, with a particular focus on the youth and next generation of Azerbaijan’s conservationists.

"We welcome Azerbaijan's initiative in seeking to protect and expand its leopard population," said Dr Thomas Kaplan, Panthera's Chairman. "Having just launched the conservation world's first global programme for leopard conservation, Project Pardus, we look forward to working with IDEA to make our shared ambition of saving this iconic species become a reality."

Scientists estimate that a small but vital population of 12 or fewer Caucasian leopards remains in Azerbaijan. As the first, urgent step under this new international collaboration, 20 PantheraCams – remote-triggered cameras developed by Panthera – will be deployed to delineate where leopards still occur in Azerbaijan and estimate their remaining numbers.

Sitting at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, Azerbaijan is one of just a handful of countries that still supports a population of the Caucasian leopard and is therefore critical to the long-term survival of this wild cat. In conserving the Caucasian leopard, Azerbaijan is not only helping to preserve the species and the country’s diverse ecosystems, but is also conserving the ancient and historic cultural heritage of its country and people.

The leopard is heavily threatened by poachers who target this cat for its exotic skin and body parts, which are sold through the illegal wildlife market. Loss of habitat and fragmentation, particularly in the South Caucasus region, is another major threat along with conflict with local livestock herders and overhunting of the leopard’s prey by local villagers, www.wildlifeextra.com reports.

News.Az

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