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South Caucasus

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Geopolitically, the Caucasus incorporates the countries of Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan as well as parts of north-east Turkey, Iran and Russia. Biologically, it is one of the world’s richest and most endangered terrestrial ecosystems, part of the Global 200 Ecoregion network and one of only three European Endemic Bird Areas. It is also considered to be a world center for agro-biodiversity.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the region has experienced significant social and economic challenges that have, amongst other things, led to widespread unemployment and an increase in rural dependence on natural resources. Unsustainable hunting of endangered wildlife, an unstable legislative framework, and a growing but unregulated livestock industry, all contributes to an increase in pressure on the region’s natural landscape. In Georgia for example, the goitered gazelle was hunted to extinction as recently as the late 19th century.

Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) history working in the region has seen us achieve many successes; in 2009, FFI partnered with one of Georgia’s leading conservation organisations, NACRES, to deliver a three year EU funded project focusing on two protected areas in the eastern part of the country. A major component of this project dealt with human-carnivore conflict (HCC) between a proud mountain culture, the Tush, and wolves. More recently, in 2013 FFI expanded our human-carnivore conflict focus to include Armenia, and commissioned a study on illegal wildlife trade in Georgia.

FFI is now developing an effective programme to build upon the work that has already achieved, and have identified five priority areas for engagement that will be developed over the coming years;
1. Human-Carnivore Conflict
2. Wildlife Trade
3. Protected Area Development
4. Marine & Coastal Issues
5. Threatened Tree Species (Global Trees Campaign)

Our work in South Caucasus

Managing wolf populations in Central Asia and the Caucasus

Managing wolf populations in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Credit: Gareth Goldthorpe/FFI.

Whilst the history of the wolf in Eurasia has been one of controversy and persecution, more recent consensus in Europe leans towards a tolerant approach to the management of large carnivores. The Caucasus and Central Asia contain some of the healthiest wolf populations in the world but, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many populations are coming under threat. A recent assessment of wolf populations and their management in Central Asia and the South Caucasus represents a first step in formulating a cohesive and coordinated approach to wolf management at a regional level.

Conservation of the endemic pears of Southern Armenia

Conservation of the endemic pears of Southern Armenia. Credit: Global Trees Campaign.

One of the most interesting taxonomic floral groups in Armenia is the wild pear. In Armenia there are 32 known pear species, 12 of which are endemic and six of these are only found in the southern part of the country. The Her-Her state sanctuary, established in 1958, is home to the only known population of the Gergeranian pear, which is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Since the sanctuary’s establishment no in-depth studies have been conducted and there is an urgent need for proper planning and protection of the site. FFI is carrying out baseline work to establish how best to do this before this species of pear is lost forever.

Addressing the illegal trade of falcons in Georgia

Addressing the illegal trade of falcons in Georgia. Credit: Guille Mayor, SABUKO.

Falconry has been a keen pursuit of the Georgians for many centuries. Each autumn raptors are caught during their annual migration over the west coast region of the country. At the end of the season, birds are released making this a low-impact activity. More recently, however, some trappers have begun selling birds out of the region and there is serious concern that this will soon begin impacting bird populations. FFI is seeking to address this by supporting better regulation, encouraging more sustainable falconry practices and improving border control to intercept smugglers.

Georgian carnivore conservation

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Georgia is home to the Asian leopard, grey wolf, brown bear, Eurasian lynx, and many other carnivore species. Unfortunately, these animals are coming under threat from illegal hunting, retaliatory killing due to conflict with livestock farmers, and a general lack of concern and awareness regarding biodiversity and the benefits of conservation.

FFI and Georgian partner NACRES (the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation and Research) are addressing these threats by improving law enforcement, biological monitoring and community outreach. We are also working with shepherds to improve stock protection and to mitigate the loss of livestock to wild predators. We are continuing to raise public awareness of wildlife loss and we are conducting surveys and research on the endangered carnivores of Georgia.

Take a closer look

Our work in Armenia

Closer Look: Our work in Armenia. Credit: Gareth Goldthorpe/FFI.

Our focus on wildlife trade has expanded to Armenia where, since 2014, FFI have been conducting assessments; surveying the habits, practices and knowledge of natural resource harvesters and analysing the various outlets and vendors of wildlife goods as well as the legal movement of products in and out of the country. Our on-going concern with the persecution of large carnivores embroiled in conflicts over livestock is also a focus in Armenia with a long-term engagement with local stakeholders to work…

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Our work in Georgia

Closer Look: Our work in Georgia. Credit: Gareth Goldthorpe/FFI.

The Georgian Carnivore Conservation Project, originally founded by FFI and NACRES as part of a three-year EU project, has now been handed over in its entirety to NACRES and, through them, continues to work with the Tusheti community on Human-Carnivore Conflict issues. Trials with electric fencing, begun during our partnership, have recently begun to show promising results with reports from shepherds indicating that wolves are actively being stopped from attacking their sheep. The illegal and unsustainable trade of wildlife in…

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Fauna & Flora International working to conserve carnivores in Georgia

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The Georgian Carnivore Conservation Project is primarily funded by the EU and is implemented by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in partnership with a national NGO, NACRES. The main focus of the project is the conservation of the unique and globally important biodiversity of the semi-arid landscape in the south-east of the country. The Vashlovani Protected Area complex Located in the south-eastern part of Georgia, this is the project’s key site and covers a total of 35,054 hectares, the bulk…

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