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Reintroduction of the Red Deer in Armenia
© WWF Armenia
Armenia as a habitat of the Red Deer

The Red Deer or Мaral is a sub-species of the Red Deer. Until 1954, the Red Deer had been commonly spread in the forests of Northern, Eastern and Southern Armenia.

Poaching and careless cutting of forest had gradually led to the disappearance of this animal from the area of Armenia. Since 1954, occasional cases had been recorded of people encountering Red Deer, but apparently those were animals that came from the areas of neighboring Georgia or Azerbaijan.  

The Red Deer is recorded in the Red Data Book of Armenia (2010) as “critically endangered”.

© WWF Armenia
What steps have been taken to return and to reintroduce the Red Deer?

Since 2013, the Ministry of Environment of Armenia and WWF Armenia have been implementing the Project entitled Reintroduction of the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus maral) in Armenia with the support of the Federative Republic of Germany (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank, WWF Germany, Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF), Transboundary Joint Secretariat (TJS) and HSBC Bank Armenia. The overall goal of the Project is to restore the population of the Caucasian Red Deer in Armenia. It is implemented at the Breeding Center of the Red Deer (built аt the Dilijan National Park) by breeding the introduced animals (up to 20 individuals as planned) and then releasing the deer born in the breeding center into the nature.  

The Red Deer, for long time missing from the Armenian Highland, has made its return to Armenia in 2018. Within the framework of the Caucasian Red Deer Reintroduction Project, 8 individuals of the animal were brought to Armenia from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Red Deer were transported to the Dilijan National Park, where the Red Deer Breeding Center had been built in advance. Later on, new groups of red deer have been transported to the center.  

In 2012, before the Red Deer was transported to the center, WWF implemented field studies to assess the capabilities available for the reintroduction of the species in the limits of the Dilijan National Park and Shikahogh State Reserve. As a result of those surveys, the favorable place to reintroduce the animal was chosen. 

Specific works to mention among the activities included arrangement of an open-air enclosure with the total area of 10 hectares within the area of the Dilijan National Park for the breeding group of the Caucasian Red Deer. A floor-standing house was built for the Office of the Breeding Center. It is furnished and equipped with necessary devices. A depot for grass and fodder, and feeding places were built; a road was laid (not damaging the eco-system) from the road connecting to Lake Parz up to the Breeding Center. Water supply of the Center was arranged, and solar panels were installed to supply electrical power to the Breeding Center. To prevent poaching and other illegal actions, a security system was established at the Center. Besides, a Souvenir Store was built at the center, and any visitor buying something at the store may thus assist the Project. The open-air enclosures are surrounded with electric fences to protect the Red Deer from predators.

By the spring of 2021, 6 fawns had already been born in the center, due to which the total number of deer reached 19. The release of the first group of deer into the wild is planned in the near future.

© WWF Armenia
Reintroduction of the Caucasian Red Deer in Armenia

Video materials were prepared to raise population's awareness; seminars are held regularly and educational visits to the breeding center are organized.