Conservation is about decisions and choices, and without science there is no way to take proper decisions. This is an underlying assumption of Future4Leopards Foundation – meaning we combine all our actions with science and thereby make them into science-based conservation. In tandem with our partner, Iran’s Department of the Environment, we have been protecting the Dohezar-Sehezar No Hunting Area, a wonderful stretch of land in northern Iran along the Alborz mountains and south of the Caspian Sea. Our recently hired “leopard shield” (see News February 20, 2017) has been doing a wonderful job deterring several gangs of poachers, while our educational programs have enhanced the performance of local rangers.
But there is still one missing objective: how can we measure success? Our field crew has been conducting a systematic camera-trapping survey with the active involvement of local partners. Heat-in-motion cameras have been deployed throughout the area with one single goal: to find out what is left after years of intensive poaching.
As a first step, we don’t expect to photo-trap leopards, though we’d be thrilled to have them on images. The hope is we’ll be lucky enough to establish that there are still ungulates in the area because they can sustain leopards. Roe deer, red deer and wild boar are three main prey species. Poachers can also be a by-catch on cameras, but leopards? We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed over the next two months.