Construction of a quarantine centre is planned within the framework of a project by IDEA aiming to increase the number of leopards and further release thereof into the wildlife

International Dialogue for Environmental Action (IDEA) Public Union has been approaching with special delicacy the issue of protecting and enriching the biodiversity in both Azerbaijan and the Caucasian Region at large, as well as conveying the beauties of the nature we are enjoying today to future generations.

Following the initiative of Leyla Aliyeva, the founder and head of IDEA Public Union, 5 endangered animal species were established in 2012 and the “Big Five” (brown bear, eagle, wolf, gazelle and the Caucasian leopard) concept of the Caucasus was made up. Since then, IDEA Public Union started its actions towards protection and increasing the number of endangered animal species.

Also, a working team, consisting of specialists from IDEA Public Union, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and WWF’s Azerbaijan Office, has been set. The working team has developed an Action Plan on the project “Restoration of leopards’ number in Azerbaijan”, based on a report by the Zoological Society of London, and a relevant roadmap was made. Construction of a quarantine centre is provided within the framework of the project aiming to increase the number of leopards and release them into the wildlife. Analysis of the territories where implementation of the project may be possible is being carried out at the moment by specialists. Full-fledged implementation of the projects is expected to start in the course of the next year.

Within the framework of leopards’ protection, IDEA Public Union, together with international and local organizations, each year arranges a number of events to enlighten the public, such as summer camps for school children, scientific workshops and practical trainings for students, competitions for the youth etc.. Moreover, with a view to drawing the international society’s attention to leopards and mobilizing the efforts towards their protection, an international Summit dedicated to the Caucasian cats (Caucasus Cat Summit) was organized in May 2014, for the first time, in Baku city, following IDEA Public Union’s initiative. The Summit dedicated to the Caucasian leopard was attended, alongside the world’s leading cat protection specialists, by representatives of influential international organizations, including UN’s Environmental Programme (UNEP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Panther Organization, Smithson Institute, Zoological Society of London and the Harvard University, as well as scholars from Azerbaijan. Within the framework of the Summit, specialists and representatives of influential international organizations made speeches, and discussions were held.

The Summit was the first significant step towards protection of the Caucasian leopards, and the starting point at the same time. As a continuation of the Summit, a report was made up by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) on protection of leopards and increasing their number in Azerbaijan, and a number of valuable recommendations were set forth.

IDEA Public Union, along with protection of the region’s endangered animal species, is planning reintroduction of an aurochs, a local species of the Greater Caucasus that had died out a hundred years ago. Moreover, IDEA Public Union has worked out an Actions Plan, together with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, on reintroduction of a bison. According to the international specialists’ opinion, Shahdagh National Park’s Ismailli district territory would be appropriate for the implementation of the project. After necessary technical issues are solved, construction of quarantine open-air cages will be carried out at the end of this year. Within the framework of the project, a Bison Breeding Centre will be created in the mentioned area. After going through the quarantine period, the bison will be released into the wildlife. In order to secure the project’s success, the American Prairie Association, which has much experience in this filed, is being regularly consulted.

Also, within the framework of “Reintroduction of gazelles into their historical habitat in the Caucasus”, one of the significant projects of IDEA, 150 gazelles were released into their historical habitats on the territory of Azerbaijan and Georgia. This project was initiated by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in 2010, and after the founding of IDEA, it has been continued successfully by the Public Union.

The objective of the project is to increase the number of gazelles in the region and reintroduce them into the territories where they had formerly lived and for certain reasons abandoned. IDEA Public Union and its partners on the project - the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - have been keeping regular control of the adaptation process of the gazelles released into the wildlife. According to the latest monitoring, adaptation of the gazelles is observed both in the territories of Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as in the natural corridor between the two countries.

On October 9, Boyukzadeh Natig Nabi oghlu, born on 22.10.1995, and Farajov Samad Yagub oghlu, born on 01.01.1995, citizens of Astara district, who were trying to sell the skin of a shot leopard on the territory of Astara district, were detained by employees of the State Border Service.

In his preliminary testimony, Natig Boyukzadeh confessed that he had hunted a wild leopard on the protected territory in Astara district’s mountain-forest mass in August this year. After shooting the leopard, N. Boyukzadeh was looking for a client. He was caught when he was trying to sell the leopard’s skin together with his relative, Farajov Samad Yagub oghlu, on the territory of Chukaz village, Astara district, for 10-15 thousand Manats.

Photos of the leopards caught on surveillance cameras installed by IDEA and WWF in Azerbaijan have been placed together with the material.