January 2006- Various leopard pictures are our new year gift from our Persian leopard project in Iran obtained during a camera trapping survey inside the national park since October 2006. After the tragic loss of a huge male leopard in Sarigol NP in August NP to poachers, the new round of camera trapping survey has been initiated in order to obtain a reliable estimation on the leopard density and population composition inside the national park. So far, 12 pictures from the leopards have been captured revealing a healthy and dynamic population roaming across the park and surrounding mountainous habitats. All the images have been taken in nighttime darkness, mainly from males. Fortunately, the camera trapping period is on peak of the leopards rutting season in January and February when they are most active during the year to find a mate and possibly establish a territory for themselves.
At the moment, 15 DeerCam passive camera trap are covering more than 60 square kilometers until February 2007 and we hope to be able to capture between 7 to 10 different individuals as our preliminary estimation based on numerous measures during the past 18 months of tracking throughout the national park. We hope that capture-mark and recapture can help us to reach a reliable and scientific density for the leopards in Sarigol.
Beside biological aspect, a network of local stakeholders have been formed, including local GOs and NGOs in order to launch a public awareness campaign in communities around the national park. Educational efforts have been allocated to 9 villages neighboring the national park where posses the livestock and poaching problems. More than 600 primary and junior high school students are the main targets who are going to learn about their nearby leopards in winter and spring 2007 by 10 local tutors.
Initiated since March 2005, the Project Persian Leopard in Sarigol National Park has been continued in 2006 by BP Conservation Program till mid 2007, aimed at developing a good base of knowledge about the less-known Persian leopard and planning a conservation program to ensure the species’ survival inside one of the last habitats in the country. Moreover, studies on wild cat Felis ornata are undergoing with hardware support of Small Cat Alliance inside the park at the same time.