The leopard, an instantly recognisable symbol of Azerbaijan’s natural heritage, is now on camera in a plan to monitor its conservation status
Found: The Caucasian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) was once widespread across the Caucasus region. It is now restricted to the mountains and foothills of northern Azerbaijan and the southern ranges near the border with Iran. The leopard as a species is recognized for its resilience and its adaptability to whatever environment it finds itself in, and the Caucasian sub-species is no different. It preys mostly on wild goats and mouflon, a wild sheep. The WWF’s estimate that possibly fewer than 15 Caucasian leopards remain in Azerbaijan is a stark reminder of how precarious the creature’s status is.
Under threat because: The leopard is the most persecuted large cat in the world. The biggest challenges facing its survival are poaching and the fragmentation of its natural habitat keeping potential mates apart (due to economic development). Raising awareness of its ‘Endangered’ status on the IUCN Red List via public information drives is a key component in the fight against poaching.
Outlook: Thanks to the 2014 signing of a cooperation agreement between leading conservation organization Panthera and the Azerbaijan-based Environmental campaigning body IDEA, a leopard-monitoring programme is now in place – and a breeding pair has already been spotted on camera in Nakhchivan.
Illustration by James Grover
This story appeared in the Winter 2015/2016 issue of Baku magazine.