Azerbaijan appeals to int'l organizations regarding animals that fell into landmines in liberated territories

Center for Biological Diversity Public Union has appealed to the world organizations for animal protection regarding the animals that have fallen into landmines in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, News.az reports.

The appeal reads: "As representatives of the civil society of Azerbaijan, we strongly condemn the landmine terror of Armenia, directed against the nature, biological diversity, and wildlife of the South Caucasus

There are estimated to be more than 1.5 million landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance in Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur – in the territories liberated from the occupation of the Republic of Armenia in 2020, and where the sovereignty and constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan was restored in 2023 and the withdrawal of remnants of Armenian armed forces and illegal armed detachments is ensured. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is one of the most landmine-contaminated countries in the world.

Recently, videos and photos of two bears (Ursus arctos), victims of landmine explosions in the liberated territories, became publicly available:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1715434183785426948, https://twitter.com/HikmetHajiyev/status/1715772738751664299/photo/1

We are deeply shocked at the sight of those animals. It is clear that one bear was disabled by stepping on a landmine, and the other – a bear cub – died after being blown up by a mine. It should be noted with regret that the landmine that caused the death of the bear cub was produced in Armenia in 2021. This means that even after the 44-day war in 2020, Armenia continued to abuse the Lachin road and lay landmines in the territories of Azerbaijan. Only local anti-terrorism measures taken by the Azerbaijani army stopped Armenia from mining the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan in September 2023.

Several years ago, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) distributed images taken on Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia showing two leopards (Panthera pardus) whose paws were crippled.

Mine victims in Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur also include endangered species on the IUCN Red List. Such a cruel attitude of the Republic of Armenia towards animals and wildlife is unacceptable. The rare natural wonders of the South Caucasus – a region of rich biodiversity – cannot be treated in such a manner.

Armenia has also used animals as bombers. On September 11, 2023, illegal armed groups of Armenia on the territory of Azerbaijan tied a remote-controlled improvised explosive device to a dog and forced it to move towards the positions of the Azerbaijani army. Due to the vigilance of the Azerbaijani army, the terrorist attack was prevented.

This provocation is contrary to the “Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices” annexed to the “Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects”. The use of animals as bombers is utterly immoral.

The scale of the environmental disaster, the ecocide committed by Armenia in the liberated territories, is heartbreaking. We are appalled at the felling and burning of large natural forest areas and the chemical pollution of the soil and bodies of water as a result of illegal mining operations in Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur over the 30-year period of occupation. This destruction has also led to the mass slaughter of animals. Armenia must answer for these inhumane acts, this eco-war, and cruelty to fauna.

We call on the Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Dr Grethel Aguilar; the Executive Director of World Animal Protection, Mr Steve McIvor; the Chairperson of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Ms Sally Spooner; the President and Co-Founder of Animal Defenders International, Ms Jan Creamer; the Chair and co-founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, Ms Dina Kourda; the Managing Directors of Animal Ethics, Ms Olaia Freiría and Ms Leah McKelvie; the Executive Director of the Wild Animal Initiative Mr Cameron Meyer Shorb; and the President of the World Wildlife Fund, Dr Adil Najam to condemn these cruel actions of Armenia.

Your contribution to the provision of accurate landmine maps to Azerbaijan would be invaluable, as these maps can save the nature of the South Caucasus. We do not want any living creatures, including animals, to become the victims of mines again.

Nature should not become a victim of the military and political provocations of Armenia. Wildlife needs our help.

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