Using camera traps to restore connectivity for wild cats in Central Asia

Team Bars Turkmenistan
Publicado: 22 Septiembre 2022
Última edición: 22 Septiembre 2022
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Located in the central part of the Kopetdag Range in the Ahal Province of Turkmenistan and spanning an area of 497 km2, Central Kopet Dag Reserve incorporates two sanctuaries and two natural monuments.

This Reserve is the most important stronghold in Turkmenistan for the conservation of the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) and recently the presence of the Pallas cat (Otocolubus manul), a relatively rare small wild cat, rediscovered. The Reserve is the gateway between Iran and areas to the north and west into Kazakhstan for the Persian leopard. Since 2018, thanks to the collaboration between protected area staff and international partners, an effort is underway to establish baseline information on all cat species, the status of their important prey (the Urial and Bezoar goat), and to identify threats, including the impacts of the border fence with Iran. Twenty camera traps have been deployed that to date have enabled to identify several Persian leopards as well as record the Pallas cat.


Asia Central y del Norte
Scale of implementation
Desierto frío
Ecosistemas de pastizales
Ecosistemas del desierto
Tundra, pastizal montano
Caza furtiva y delitos ambientales
Ciencia y investigación
Comunicación y divulgación
Conectividad / conservación transfronteriza
Especies y la extinción
Fragmentación del hábitat y degradación
Gestión y planificación de áreas protegidas y conservadas
Gobernanza de las áreas protegidas y conservadas
Institucionalización de la biodiversidad
Pérdida de la biodiversidad
Usos conflictivos / impactos acumulativos
Cacería furtiva
Falta de acceso a financiación a largo plazo
Falta de capacidad técnica
Deficiente vigilancia y aplicación de la ley
Sustainable development goals
ODS 15 - Vida de ecosistemas terrestres
Aichi targets
Meta 1: Aumento de la sensibilization sobre la biodiversidad
Meta 2: Valores de biodiversidad integrados
Meta 5: Pérdida de hábitat reducida a la mitad o reducida
Meta 11: Áreas protegidas y conservadas
Meta 17: Estrategias y planes de acción para la biodiversidad
Marco de Sendai
Meta 6: Incrementar la cooperación hacia países en desarrollo a través de apoyo adecuado y sustentable a fin de complementar sus acciones


Mostrar en “Planeta protegido”


Like other protected areas in Turkmenistan, the Central Kopet Dag Reserve suffers from a lack of resources, financial and technical and greater opportunities for staff to build their skills and knowledge.


The other big challenge is that most of the Reserve falls within the border zone.Therefore it is challenging for Reserve staff to have access regularly for monitoring and patrolling.


  • scientists and rangers of the Central Kopet Dag Reserve
  • wildlife of the Reserve, including the approximately 20 leopards inhabiting it
  • the local communities benefit from initiatives aimed at reducing human-wildlife conflict

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

The data generated through monitoring can be a powerful communication and awareness-raising tool that allows to create bridges between the protected areas and local communities. Local communities can then be included through a “citizen science” approach where members of communities feel empowered by the sheer act of contributing important information to protected area staff.


Communication and collaboration with Border Security authorities and local communities helped to better understand the conflict between leopards and livestock as well as developed ideas as to how border fences could be modified to restore connectivity without compromising national security.


Gathered data and experience have been used to make the case for the inclusion of the Persian leopard under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Central Asian Mammals Initiative and sealed the commitment of Turkmenistan to join the Convention in January 2021. By joining CMS, the importance of the Reserve as a case study for restoring connectivity became even greater.


The important monitoring results have been used for outreach and messaging on the value of protected areas and of protecting species. Several documentaries have been broadcasted on state TV. As a result, there is a greater appreciation for the conservation of wildlife, especially wild cats.


Sharing of data and information with conservationists in neighbouring Iran has also showed that Persian leopards cross from Iran into the Reserve in Turkmenistan, albeit severely affected by border fences, and come very close to the country’s capital. 


Tatjana Rosen

Stas Fatayev is a forester by training and was critical in leading the first monitoring efforts in the Kopet Dag in 2010's. He helped capture the leopards that have been taken to Sochi to kick start the leopard breeding program and northern Caucasus reintroduction efforts. Stas works for the Ashgabat airport but as an alpinist and lover of nature and leopards, he spends all of his free time in the mountains and is an invaluable resource and support for Aknabat Potayeva, the Science Lead in the Central Kopet Dag reserve. He knows of every nook, leopard trail and “who’s who” in the leopard kingdom. He often runs into them. He says leopards can smell “fear” and if you are not afraid, they just move on. He is not afraid of them.


Up in Marcow, the “snake den”, on a rainy, cold and foggy day we scaned for places to place cameras. Stas said leopards loved these misty days to move and stalk their prey. Finally, we found a promising spot, after clambering over some wet rock. Stas, with the help of Aman Kurbonov, who also used to be a scientific collaborator of the Central Kopet Dag reserve, found good rocks to build a camera trap tower. 


Persian leopards are one of the most imperilled and yet under-prioritized species for conservation and funding. We advocate for that to change by supporting existing efforts in the Caucasus and Iran and new intensive research and conservation work in Turkmenistan, paving the way for developing both a national Action Plan and a regional strategy for the conservation of the species. Persian leopard conservation across borders, championed by using the Convention on Migratory Species Central Asian Mammals Initiative platform, could be a way for Turkmenistan to lead the way in securing a future for this species, by connecting countries and their people and having them join hands in the conservation of the leopard. 


The famous Turkmen poet Magtymguly wrote of tigers inhabiting the Sunt Hasar mountains in the 18th century.  They disappeared in the early 20th century. We don’t want Persian leopards to be remembered as a thing of the past. We want to work to ensure that the presence of healthy leopard populations is regarded as a symbol of a modern state’s commitment to environmental sustainability. 

Contribuido por

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Aleksandra Nikodinovic IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Other contributors

Center for Large Landscape Conservation