Caucasian Leopard is back to Armenia
In early 2000 the Caucasian Leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) became a critically endangered species threatened by extinction in Armenia. Today (in 2021) number of leopards increased up 10 individuals in the country. This success was reached due to enforcement of existing Protected Areas, establishment of new Protected Areas and Community Conserved Areas within the leopard range as well as thanks to well-established partnership between the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Armenia, WWF-Armenia, CNF, communities and other institutions.
Description and protection status of a target phenomenon (species/habitat/protected area)
The Caucasian or Persian Leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) is recognised as a focal animal in the Caucasus ecoregion. The spices is included in the National Red Data Book of Armenia (2010) as critically endangered (CR). The species is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List as well as in CITES Appendix I. It is listed as a strictly protected species in Appendix II of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. In Armenia the species inhabits Southern regions including Ararat, Vayots Dzor abd Syunik regions. In 2018, a new record of leopard was made in Tavush region in the Northern Armenia. During last 10 years the population of leopard in Armenia is stable and vary from 5 to 10 individuals. A number of Bezoar Goat (Capra aegagrus) as a key prey species of leopard increased from 1200 (in 2006) to more than 3000 (in 2021).
The main threat for leopard is poaching, habitat destruction and fragmentation, presence of military forces in the border areas within the range of leopard occurrence.
What has been done
In 2002 WWF started implementation of the project on leopard conservation in Armenia.
It included enforcement of existing Protected Areas (Khosrov and Shikahogh Reserves), establishment of new Protected Areas (Arevik National Park, Zangezur and Khustup Sanctuaries) in the area of the main habitats of leopard through partnership with the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia and target communities.
In 2015, WWF started a project on establishment of eco-corridor. As result of the phase of the project 6 Community Conserved Areas within the eco-corridor were established in the southern Armenia.
In general, more than 91,881 ha of new Protected Areas and 38,454 ha of Community Conserved Areas were established in the country, which makes more about 5% of the entire territory of Armenia.
What are the organizations behind the project
The project was implemented by WWF-Armenia. Financial support of the project was provided by WWF Switzerland and WWF Germany. The projects on establishment of new Protected Areas and eco-corridor were supported by WWF network, CEPF, the Norwegian Government (MFA), the German Government (BMZ via KfW), UNDP/GEF.
Karen Manvelyan, WWF-Armenia, about the project
Conclusions, recommendations, lessons learned
There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure effective protection of leopard and other threatened species. The legislative and institutional framework need improvement and further development. New Protected Areas and Community Conserved Areas should be established to cover the gap of leopard habitats coverage.
Sustainability is ensured by the Government of Armenia through the Ministry of Environment, Caucasus Nature Fund and Eco-corridor Fund.
Dr. Karen Manvelyan, Director of WWF-Armenia