Monday 3 May 2021, Tbilisi, Georgia. On the occasion of International Leopard Day today the Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF) has released its Annual Report 2020. It reflects that the Caucasus has faced two crises in 2020: the continuing Covid pandemic stretched government budgets and heavily impacted a nascent tourism sector that brought much needed income to the economies and some funding to protected areas in Georgia and Armenia; and the armed conflict facing the region last autumn makes the original aspiration to bring more regional cooperation to nature protection ever more challenging
These developments have further increased the pressure on the last remaining endangered Persian Leopards living in the Southern Caucasus – one of CNF’s priority species.
“With our work at this time of great upheaval, the conservation of the Persian leopard, one of the most endangered and iconic species, moving through these landscapes, is a story of hope for the region.” Tanya Rosen, CNF Conservation Adviser, and leopard expert, has pointed out. CNF is working in partnership with the conservation organizations Nacres and WWF to further strengthen the monitoring and conservation efforts in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
The 2020 CNF Annual Report highlights the accomplishments during a difficult year, including close to €1,8 million in emergency grants; and the contribution of €735,000 to salaries and €40,000 to cover the insurance of protected areas‘ staff in Georgia and Armenia.
“Low ranger salaries affect morale, and this in turn has a negative impact on motivation – especially for rangers and senior park management, so a performance-based bonus criteria is also being developed” said Tea Barbakadze, CNF Georgia Director.
The report also highlights that, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (through UNDP) CNF began a five-year project in April 2019 to enhance the financial sustainability of Georgia’s Protected Areas’ system. “The funding has also contributed to support the rollout, training, and establishment of SMART patrolling in five of Georgia’s National Parks” added Tamar Pataridze, CNF Georgia Programme Manager.
In Armenia, CNF continued to support the Public Monitoring Group, an NGO-led initiative which provides outside “rangering support” to Dilijan National Park. “Poaching and illegal logging are the most pressing threat in Armenia, which is why we have also supported the introduction of an online camera monitoring system which allows Protected Area staff as well as staff from the Ministry to observe in real time all movements in the various PAs which CNF supports” added Arman Vermishyan, CNF Armenia Director.
In Georgia, CNF funded a project which identifies species and habitat indicators for 12 Protected Areas, and which includes a 10-year plan with indicative budgets and timelines for this monitoring. Based on this plan, developed in a consultative process by partner Nacres, targeted monitoring is underway.
The report emphasizes that lack of comprehensive and coordinated planning means that there are undue pressures on protected areas – both from local populations, the private sector, and governments. “CNF is working with the governments and communities to increase awareness of the multiple benefits of Protected Areas – including as a source of “environmental services” and economic benefits from sustainable tourism” said Tobias Muenchmeyer, CNF Executive Director.
CNF, founded by the German Ministry for Cooperation and Development, Conservation International and WWF, provides long long-term support and management assistance for the protected areas of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.