Persian leopards are rare, but one of their prey species, the Hyrcanian red deer, is probably as rare as the leopards themselves. As the largest ungulate in west Asian forests, Hyrcanian red deer have been disappearing from most of their range along the southern Caspian Sea and into the Caucasus. There is a tiny population left in the Dohezar-Sehezar No Hunting Area, likely fewer than 50 individuals. Since 2016 we have taken multiple steps to secure this small population, from engaging hunters who later called for a stop to illegal deer hunting to hiring an ex-poacher as a ranger.
Now we are more than excited to share the wonderful news with you of a project that will support our restoration efforts in the long term. We have just provided technical assistance to a local philanthropist who has established a red deer breeding and education facility in the area. Consisting of 10 adult red deer, all safely translocated by our crew from another breeding center in late December 2017, the herd is expected to provide some individuals in the long term for rewilding. Also, the center will be an educational attraction to spread the word at local and regional levels.