51 globally threatened species get new lease on life in the Caucasus

EurekAlert, DC
May 25 2004

51 globally threatened species get new lease on life in the Caucasus

$8.5 million in grants and six-country council to benefit region

Tbilisi, Georgia (25 May 2004, 0200 GMT) – WWF, the conservation
organization, and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) today
announced a CEPF investment strategy and a high-level advisory council
of governmental and nongovernmental representatives from Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey to help conserve the
rich natural resources of the region.

Support for the council is a strategic part of a new regional
coordination approach, led by the WWF Caucasus Programme, to ensure
success of CEPF’s $8.5 million investment strategy. CEPF will award
grants to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society
groups working to safeguard high-priority areas for conservation in
the region, which spans the area between the Black and Caspian seas.

“These new developments will pull together partners from across the
region, enabling an inclusive approach for planning and action across
political boundaries that can be obstacles to successful conservation,”
said Giorgi Sanadiradze, director of the WWF Caucasus Programme.

A regional approach involving multiple stakeholders is also vital to
effectively address the broader social, economic and policy factors
essential to results that benefit both nature and people.

The forests, high mountain ecosystems and arid landscapes of the
Caucasus contain more than twice the animal diversity found in adjacent
regions of Europe and Asia. However, biodiversity of the Caucasus is
being lost at an alarming rate. Human activities have transformed
nearly half of the lands. Fifty-one species are at risk, including
the Critically Endangered Saiga antelope, Siberian crane and Baltic
(Atlantic) sturgeon.

CEPF investments will focus on conserving these 51 globally threatened
species, the majority of which are found in specific sites in five
target areas: Greater Caucasus, Caspian, West Lesser Caucasus, East
Lesser Caucasus and Hyrcan.

The announcement came as part of a series of events being held
in Tbilisi this week, including a workshop May 25-26 for NGOs,
government representatives and other stakeholders to learn more about
the CEPF investment strategy and to help develop an action plan
for its implementation. The first meeting of the Regional Council
for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use in the Caucasus
Ecoregion will be May 26. A May 27 event will draw together all
participants for an official launch.

The Caucasus “ecoregion” is globally outstanding for its
biodiversity. It is also one of the world’s 25 biologically richest yet
most threatened areas. These areas known as “biodiversity hotspots” are
the focus of CEPF, a joint initiative of Conservation International,
the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John
D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

“Our investment program for the Caucasus is designed to meet the
challenges in a vast region of six unique countries,” said Dan Martin,
CEPF senior managing director. “By placing a regional conservation
leader such as WWF Caucasus at its heart, our support to local
groups will pioneer and equip new partnerships and approaches that
are necessary to make lasting conservation happen.”

The WWF Caucasus Programme coordinated an intensive process to
develop the CEPF strategy, known as an ecosystem profile, for the
Caucasus. Its approach ultimately drew participation from more than
130 experts representing scientific, governmental and nongovernmental
groups from the six countries.

The Programme will act as the hub of CEPF strategy implementation in
the region, ensuring integration of the WWF and CEPF approach, helping
local groups develop grant proposals, disseminating information and
assisting in monitoring of the CEPF portfolio.

With headquarters in Tbilisi and country offices in Armenia and
Azerbaijan, WWF Caucasus will work together with WWF offices in Russia
and Turkey and the Centre for Sustainable Development and Environment
in Iran to ensure effective coordination region-wide. The approach
also includes building a regional group of experts from the six
countries to assist in reviewing grant proposals as needed and act
as a technical advisory group, as well as assisting the new Regional
Council in its overarching role.


Kakha Tolordava, WWF Caucasus, tel. 995-3233-0154,
[email protected]
Bobbie Jo Kelso, CEPF, cell phone 202-369-2031,
[email protected]

The WWF Caucasus Programme works to stop the degradation of the
natural environment in the Caucasus and to build a future in which
humans live in harmony with nature.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund aims to dramatically advance
conservation of the Earth’s biologically richest and most threatened
areas in developing countries. A fundamental goal is to ensure that
civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. ().