EMPOWERMENT OF PERSIAN LEOPARD NATIONAL NETWORK FOR PARTICIPATORY CONSERVATION OF PERSIAN LEOPARD
Persian leopard has a wide distribution in Iran and its practical conservation in its natural habitats is significantly related to participation of local communities in conservation efforts. Therefore, since November 2012 we embarked on establishment of a national network for participatory conservation of the Persian leopards in Iran with support from a GEF SGP project . In the “Persian Leopard National Network” members were invited and have been registered from various provinces and regions across the country. Therefore, a great capacity has been established by bringing various related people together for the purpose of participatory research and conservation of the Persian leopards across the country.
The project (SGP Project No. IRA/SGP/OP5/Y2/STAR/BD/12/02(168)) resulted in the following outputs for the first time in the country:
1- Establishment of the Persian leopard National Network. Registered persons are from various backgrounds such as experts and rangers of Department of Environment of Iran, local persons with local knowledge and influence in their communities, NGOs and people who are frequently in the field such as mountain climbers with knowledge about specific habitats and academicians and scientists,.
2- Establishment of the Persian leopard online portal www.Persian-leopard.com (The purpose is to record leopard information across the country by the members. The portal has been endorsed by Department of Environment of Iran.)
3- Countrywide assessment of the Persian leopard conservation needs and priorities with regard to two issues of “habitat” and “local communities – community based programs”
4- Modeling of the countrywide distribution of Persian leopard potential habitats in Iran and identification of critical areas.
In the next step, we are going to establish various active working groups within the Persian Leopard National Network. The subject of each working group is identified on the basis of the Persian leopard conservation needs and priorities that we assessed during the last project.
Educational workshops and practical trainings will be held to empower members of each working group for the specific targets defined for each cluster in the critical sites identified in the first project. Participatory planning for the upcoming activities of the National Network will be done during this project. Members will participate in conservation programs related to the Persian leopards across the country based on the Action Plan being established in this project, but due to severity of issue and the los of 6 Persian Leopards in the recent months, conservation work in the critical sites will initiate in the process of the trainings.
1- Start awareness raising about the critical sites (site) for conservation of the Persian Leopard based on the outputs of the first project
2- To establish the working groups and training the members
a. “continuous monitoring of Persian leopard status in Iran”
b. “training and field surveys”
c. “documentary and media”
d. “awareness raising and community-based programs”
3- To prepare educational materials (e.g. book) for each working group by experts in each cluster
4- To facilitate sharing of the experience, local knowledge and lessons learned from previous activities among network members from various backgrounds
5- To provide opportunities for experts and local knowledgeable persons from various regions of the country to access related educational and training facilities
6- First participatory planning for the future activities and programs of the Persian Leopard National Network (Action plan I: 2014-2016)
a. First Action Plan of the Persian Leopard National Network covering four years of 2015-2019 has been developed by the end of this project.
b. Educational materials for each working group are prepared and can be used for new members of the network.
7- Participatory conservation work in critical areas is initiated with emphasis on 1 or 2 sites.
8- Members of the Persian Leopard National Network will be fully aware through of the purposes and activities of the network and their tasks and responsibilities in the working groups. Since by the end of the project they have been also empowered through educational and training activities, they can participate in monitoring, research and conservation programs in their region and also they are capable of developing a new project in these regards.
9- Training material used and the status of the network will be shared.
10- Information about the project process and progress will been shared with public through websites, newsletters and short documentary to ensure their support to participatory conservation of leopards. The information is also sent to relative organizations to use lessons learned from this project for possible future similar activities.