Caucasian leopards in Armenia18/09/2012 14:41:17 World Land Trust (WLT) launches a new Special Appeal to support a conservation project to save the rare Caucasian Leopard in Armenia
September 2012. In April, a blanket of snow covered the vast mountainous landscape surrounding the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge in Armenia, one of the world's lesser-known biodiversity hotspots. Here, big cat footprints were found - those of the Caucasian Leopard.
It has been over a decade since there was a confirmed sighting of the Caucasian Leopard within the region but since Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) set-up their conservation project here they have been working to create conditions where this top predator could thrive.
In the first stage of this project, World Land Trust aims to raise £20,000 by the end of the year to help strengthen FPWC's conservation activities in order to ensure the survival of the population of Caucasian Leopard in the region.
Conservation threats and successes
FPWC has already started this vital work; with the support of WLT and their partner IUCN Netherlands they created the 1,084 acre (439 hectare) Caucasus Wildlife Refuge - next to the 60,000 acre Khosrov National Reserve - and employed a team of rangers who have successfully reduced illegal hunting in the region.This has resulted in increased numbers of Bezoar Ibex in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge; this spectacular subspecies of wild goat, with horns nearly as long as its body, only exists in the Caucasus region and overhunting caused a dramatic decline in their numbers. Increasing the population of Bezoar Ibex is key to the survival of its predator, the Caucasian Leopard.
Predator and prey relationships
Prey abundance is the key factor determining the structure of female wild cats' home ranges, whereas availability of females is most important for male home ranges. Prey scarcity affects populations of wild cats in a number of ways - from decreasing the proportion of productive females and delaying the age of first reproduction, to reducing litter size and increasing mortalities both in offspring and adults.
A lack of prey also expands big cats' home ranges, which intensifies movements and increases the numbers of transients and dispersing individuals - all of which impacts population viability.
Leopards in Armenia
How is Word Land Trust helping?
The recent discovery of the Caucasian Leopard's footprints near the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge is a sign that we must act now, before it is too late.