By Amina Nazarli
Adrian Steirn, an award-winning fine art, wildlife, portrait photographer and filmmaker, has visited Azerbaijan in search of Caucasian leopard.
This near-mythical creature is on the brink of extinction in a land of remarkable biodiversity and stark contrasts between ancient heritage and rapid modernization.
Steirn, accompanied by a group of experts, including Russian scientist, African pathfinder and a local "leopard man", organizes a search on mountains - the habitat of leopards in Azerbaijan.
During the film to be aired by Nat Geo Wild on December 8 at 20:00, the viewers will get acquainted with "leopard man" Babakhan. Steirn says he has never seen a man who is so found of his profession. The Azerbaijani pathfinder did not rest during the filming, the filmmaker say.
Could Steirn’s team take a shoot of a leopard to prove its existence in Azerbaijan? You can find the answer to this question after watching the film.
The Caucasian leopard is one of the biggest of the eight recognized sub species of leopard. They live mainly in remote, mountainous habitats which can range from dry and arid areas to forested regions and even extend up into snowy mountain ranges.
Until the early 2000s, very little information was available about leopards living in the territory of Azerbaijan. But thanks to the studies of past years, Azerbaijani zoologists discovered their traces in Hirkan forest, Nakhchivan and Mingachevir water reservoir.
With the aim of protecting and increasing the number of wild nature, IDEA Public Association identified the Caucasus Big Five project which also envisages protection of Caucasian leopard.
Considering symbol of the Caucasus and the region’s main living beauty, leopards, are also protected, under the “Protection of Leopards” project, which hold various events aimed at public education, including summer camps, scientific seminars and workshops for students.
The Caucasian leopard is found across several different countries, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Georgia.
Azerbaijan and Russia plan to create a reserve for the restoration of leopard population in
the Caucasus in the near future. The reserve is proposed to become a part of Zagatala State Nature Reserve (Azerbaijan) and Federal Reserve Tlyaratinsky (Republic of Dagestan).
Lately, the Azerbaijani Ecology Ministry announced about birth of five leopard cubs in the country.