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The Caucasian Red Deer or Caspian Deer (Cervus elaphus maral), is one of the easternmost subspecies of red deer. Until the early 1950s, the Caucasian Red Deer was commonly distributed in the forests of northern, eastern and southern Armenia. Poaching and careless cutting of forest have gradually led to the disappearance of this animal from these areas of Armenia and today the Caucasian Red Deer is listed as critically endangered in the Red Data Book of Armenia (2010).
Since 2013, the Ministry of Environment of Armenia and WWF-Armenia have been implementing a Caucasian Red Deer Reintroduction Programme. The overall goal of the programme is to restore the population of the Caucasian Red Deer in Armenia and is being implemented through the creation of a Red Deer breeding center in Dilijan National Park, where animals will be bred in the center and then released to nearby natural habitats.
In 2012, prior to the creation of the center, WWF-Armenia implemented field studies to assess the potential for successful reintroduction of the species within the limits of Dilijan National Park and Shikahogh State Reserve. As a result of this study, favorable locations to reintroduce the species were chosen and the Red Deer breeding center was created within Dilijan National Park, which includes a 10 hectares open-air enclosure. In 2018, 8 Red Deer from Iran were the first animals to arrive at the center. As of 2021, the breeding group consists of 16 animals and 11 offspring have born in the centre. In the of autumn 2022 the first group–consisting of 5 Red Deer–will be released into the wild.
The Caucasian Red Deer Reintroduction Project in Armenia has been supported by: Government of Germany (BMZ) through KfW Development Bank; WWF-Germany; Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF); Transboundary Joint Secretariat (TJS) and HSBC Bank Armenia.