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

The Caspian or Caucasian Red Deer 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 and today 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 Armenian brunch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Armenia) and the Ministry of Environment of Armenia have been implementing the Project entitled Reintroduction of the Caspian Red Deer (Cervus elaphus maral) in Armenia with the support of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank, WWF Germany, Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF). The overall goal of the Project is to restore the population of the Caspian 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 and then releasing the deer born in the breeding center into the nature.

The red deer, for long time missing from Armenia, has made its return to the country in 2018. Within the framework of the Caucasian Red Deer Reintroduction Project, 14 individuals of the animal were brought to Armenia from the Islamic Republic of Iran (three animals were donated to the Republic of Armenia by the Government of 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.

In 2012, before the project start, WWF Armenia conducted a feasibility study on reintroduction of the Red Deer in Dilijan National Park and Shikahogh State Reserve. As a result of those surveys, the favorable areas for reintroduction of the animal was chosen as well as carring capicities of the areas assessed.

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 Caspian Red Deer. A floor-standing house was built for the Office of the Breeding Center, which was furinshed and equipped. A depot for grass and fodder, and feeding places wasbuilt; a road was laid (not damaging the eco-system) 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 National Park and the project. The open-air enclosures are surrounded with electric fences to protect the red deer from predators.

By 2022, 21 fawns had already been born in the center. The release of the first group of 3  individuals to nature is planned in authumn  2022 after which 5-10 deer will be released each year.

© 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.