Recent camera-trap footage from the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge has recorded a Syrian Brown Bear and highlights the importance of camera-traps for monitoring wildlife and informing conservation strategies.
Thanks to funds from World Land Trust (WLT), there are now nine camera-traps in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge (CWR). Both CWR and the cameras are managed by WLT’s conservation partner in Armenia, Foundation for Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC).
Recently, a camera-trap captured rare footage of a Syrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus), a subspecies of Brown Bear native to Eurasia. This is an important recording as there may be just one or two bears in the reserve and the Red Data Book of Armenia lists them as vulnerable.
(Barbara Siebert, FPWC Program Director)
The bears inhabit the south-eastern part of Armenia, particularly in Meghri, Kapan, Goris, Sisian, Vayk, and Yeghegnadzor regions. They have been known to range as far as the hill foots of Mt Aragats, and up to elevations of 3,000m above sea level.
The Syrian Brown Bear’s typical habitat is arid sparse forest, broadleaf forests, mountain grass lands, subalpine and alpine meadows. Availability of fruits, berries and nuts is an important influence on their distribution.
There are thought to be some 150 bears in the wild. The exact population is unknown – and likely to be declining due to poaching, habitat destruction and diminishing sources of food in the wild.
Agriculture, mining and quarrying are some of the reasons for habitat destruction, and bears damaging bee hives and orchards is the main cause of conflict with local farmers.
FPWC Program Director Barbara Siebert comments: “As bears look for food on farms there is often conflict with humans. This is why the CWR is so important because we provide an area free from conflict for wildlife such as bears. We also plant wild fruit and nut trees to encourage bears to use the protected area rather than farmland.”
Data for monitoring
FPWC uses camera-trap images to assess population numbers of wildlife. Footage of Bezoar Goats, for example, demonstrates herd sizes, which areas of the reserve the goats are using, and how frequently. Numbers are compared year on year, and show populations are increasing.
Images of injured animals may indicate poaching, and will prompt greater security in a particular area.
Cameras donated by World Land Trust (ProStalk, PC8000 8 mega Pixel) are purchased from Hawke Optics who supply them at trade price for use by WLT programme partners. The cameras are transported to Armenia by friends of FPWC travelling from the UK, and WLT staff on field trips.
Charlotte Beckham, WLT’s Conservation Programmes Assistant, has recently returned from a field trip to Armenia. Read her account of checking camera-traps with FPWC rangers in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge »
Thanks to funds raised from WLT’s Save the Caucasian Leopard appeal, WLT is supporting the lease of 2,718 acres (1,100 hectares) to expand the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge and other activities to protect habitat not only for the Caucasian Leopard but also for its prey species and the other threatened Caucasian endemics found here. You can help protect the wildlife and biodiversity of the South Caucasus by donating to WLT’s Caucasian Leopard appeal.