Human-leopard conflicts and their resolution in Iran (Erasmus Mundus, 2012-2013)

September 2012 - October 2013

The project has been carried out in Golestan National Park, a premier protected area of Iran. It dealt with

1. Assessment of abundance and carrying capacity of leopard prey and their role in human-leopard conflicts (HLC)
2. Interactions between wild prey and domestic livestock as possible drivers of HLCs

Escalated conflicts between local pastoralists and leopards arising from leopard attacks on livestock can lead to increased leopard mortality on the fringes of protected areas. Retaliatory killing is particularly dangerous for adult breeding females and dispersing sub-adult males which often have to move outside of protected areas. The following hypotheses are tested: First, livestock predation can result from deficiency, unavailability or avoidance of wild prey. Second, livestock predation can represent a habit of female leopards to kill easy prey which is further learned by their offspring. Third, livestock predation can ensue from competition between livestock and wild prey.

This postdoctoral research attempts to answer these questions and to find clear-cut ways towards the effective and efficient conservation of leopards and other biodiversity. The results of this research have significant scientific and conservation implications for much of the Middle East where human-carnivore conflicts are an issue. Also, it will enable to develop workable mechanisms of human-leopard and, generally, human-predator conflict resolution in environmentally and socially friendly ways.

Participating scientists:

Igor Khozoryan (postdoctoral researcher), Matthias Waltert, Arash Ghoddousi

More information about the project can be found on the following pages: