The leopard is still in our area
It was already March. Very much concerned about the leopard’s welfare after such a harsh winter (temperature up to -27C and no single video recording since the autumn of the last year), I hiked to the mountains to set up the trap camera and suddenly noticed a leopard paw print on fresh snow. Unmistakably he is still there and he is doing fine. To me it’s enough to know that the leopard is still in our area. And he is safe.
FPWC creates conditions where this top predator can thrive: restoring an ecological balance is the first step towards this achievement. I am pretty sure that our leopard will show itself very soon. Now no longer hunted by local people with no overgrazing in the area, the wildlife population will slowly, but steadily increase. The natural balance will be restored very soon.
In early spring we encountered a lot of Grey wolves in the area (around 7 species). They killed the rangers’ two horses, injured one of them and went closer to the village, which, in addition, lost three more horses and seven cows. Despite big financial and moral damage caused by the wolves, still we do not hunt them; the ecological balance should not be disturbed. However villagers are used to hunt wolves, as there’s a state fee around 100,000 AMD for every wolf head in Armenia. Same situation was with the Caucasian leopard in early 70’s – there was a state award for hunting this rare predator which resulted in killing 2 leopards in Urtsadzor and approx. 5-6 throughout all Armenia in the last ten years. Sadly but during 1950-1972 around 75 leopards were killed in Armenia just because the hunting of this fascinating species was allowed on a state level with 100-150 Russian Rubli for the head.
Starting from 1972 killing a leopard is considered as poaching in Armenia (i.e illegal hunting) and can result to a court case with following imprisonment and penalty (around 3,000,000 AMD).
Currently as per IUCN Red list, around 10-13 leopards remained in the territory of Armenia. We estimate around 7-8 the maximum. The only way to save the Caucasian leopard in Armenia is to save its habitat, i.e. to establish and secure the animal’s eco-migration corridor starting from Khosrov Forest State reserve up to the north of the country, to the border with Iran and Nakhijevan.