In my capacity as chair of CNF’s board, from time to time, I venture out to get a closer look at the programs we support. On a recent business trip to Baku, I took an extra day so that I could visit Shirvan National Park in Azerbaijan.
In prior years, the gazelle population in Shirvan was cut off from the goitered gazelle populations in other areas due to the construction of highway, oil extraction, and infrastructure development in this territory. However, in 2003, Shirvan was expanded, its status was modernized to that of a national park and protection practices were dramatically improved. While the threat to the goitered gazelle remains, the official population estimate of the gazelle is now more than 5,000 and the gazelle population today is visibly recovering. I can attest to a healthy and abundant number of young gazelles.
Efforts are underway to re-introduce the gazelle to suitable habitats elsewhere in the region, taking a few every year from Shirvan. I was able to see a holding area created specifically for this reintroduction program. The gazelles appeared strong and ready for their relocation elsewhere in Azerbaijan as well as to Vashlovani National Park, just over the border in Georgia. This is a terrific example of the benefits that can come to this region if cross-border cooperation can be strengthened.
Eva Witt is the Chair of the CNF Board and the Director of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia for the KfW Development Bank.