Through the Eyes of the Leopard is a project supported by the Mirpuri Foundation that comprises three expeditions to the Caucasus. Designed to photograph the Persian Leopard and the natural and cultural richness of its surrounding habitat, the initiative aims to sensitize the population towards the preservation of the area and the protection of its wildlife that is currently at risk. In fact, this leopard’s subspecies is listed as highly endangered by the International Union for Nature Conservation.

The second expedition is now in place and Dr.Rui Bernardino and Engineer José Dias Ferreira have shared the highlights of their first days on the field:

“We have already passed Baku and crossed the Hirkan Milli Park, in the Talish Mountains, a unique setting for the Persian Leopard. This park, established in 2004 and with the length of over 400.000 hectares, can be found in the district of Astara, bordering with Iran. There are currently 3 to 4 leopards monitored in this reserve that is now considered the second area with proven reproduction of the animal in the Caucasus (following Kiamaki, in Iran, previously visited). It is, for that reason, a very important zone concerning the conservation of the species.

So far, we have traveled 700 kilometers by car and 20 kilometers by foot in altitudes ranging from 300 to 800 meters of altitude, having visited the most remote little villages of the region, important for leopard dispersal. The rain, thunderstorms and fog made these sceneries, already magical by nature, even more surprising, influencing the images we recorded.

We have had the opportunity to get informed about particular habits of the species living in this territory, so different from others due to dissimilarities in the Talish Mountains’ ecosystems.

We have spent the night in the villages and witnessed the close relationship of the locals with nature. We met and interviewed the iconic “leopard-man”, the one living person who has so far experienced the most direct episodes with leopards across all Caucasus.

We have now reached Azerbeijan’s exclave Nakhchivan, an area with no contact with the exterior. The visit to this exclave is of highly difficult access and every activity is extremely controlled, thus it was only made possible due to our local contacts.

We are now getting ready to approach the border to Dagestan Republic and we will send some more updates on the expedition soon.”

 

Photo credits: José Dias Ferreira and Rui Bernardino