First leopard sighting on Georgian protected areas in 12 years marks highlight for conservation programme

A photograph of a leopard in Georgia, captured in December 2005. Sightings or traces of the animal had been non-existent since 2009. Photo via NACRES., 02 Nov 2021 - 19:44, Tbilisi,Georgia

The first sighting of a leopard in Georgia in 12 years a few weeks ago has marked a high point for conservationists in the country, with the environmentalist community celebrating the milestone.

A shot produced in August by a camera trap installed in Tusheti Protected Areas in the mountainous north of the country was recovered by a team of professionals in mid-October, with the news going viral on local social media.

Recovered from the camera, the photograph was revealed by the World Wildlife Fund Caucasus Programme Office and the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation & Research (NACRES).

The new shot of a leopard in Tusheti Protected Areas, captured by a camera trap in August:

The discovery is seen as a successful highlight for the WWF leopard conservation programme that has been running in the South Caucasus with the support of the Swiss and German offices of the Fund since 2000.

Previously, traces of a leopard were spotted in Georgia in 2009, with no findings or sightings recorded since. Detailed information on leopards in Georgia is available in a NACRES publication (in Georgian).

The conservationists involved in the programme and the work have dedicated the most recent finding to the memory of the late geographer and conservationist Nugzar Zazanashvili, who died earlier this year at the age of 64.

A social media post by the WWF said Zazanashvili's contribution to the successful implementation of the programme in Georgia was "invaluable".