East Caucasian tur are glassed and counted, with each observation recorded from a vantage point on top of a rocky ridge. The mountain-dwelling caprine are not being hunted, but rather studied for scientific research that will inform the management and conservation of these rugged wild goats.
A collaborative research team, representing the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Caspian Institute of Biological Resource, Ministry of Nature Resources and Ecology of the Daghestan Republic, and the IUCN Caprinae Specialist Group, is currently evaluating the status of Capra caucasica cylindricornis, with new support from SCI Foundation.
The East Caucasian tur subspecies ranges on the eastern half of the Greater Caucasus Mountains in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Poaching is a major threat in this region, along with habitat degradation and fragmentation. The largest part of their range is located in Russia’s Dagestan Republic, where regulated hunting programs contribute to tur conservation by providing incentives against poaching.
The East Caucasian subspecies is categorized as Endangered on IUCN’s Red List. The last study conducted in 1994 showed a 50% population reduction from the 25,000-30,000 estimated in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The current status is unknown, as the subspecies has not been studied for more than 20 years.
Signs suggest that a strong misbalance in sex ratio due to the poaching of mature males may be affecting the viability of populations. Research now sponsored by SCI Foundation will look at tur population structure, density, abundance, and diet using observation methods and camera trapping.
The project will also raise awareness of poaching and the importance of conservation through public workshops, lectures, and press articles. Local communities will be engaged with conservation initiatives and the creation of anti-poaching teams.
During the CITES CoP17 in October 2016, the Parties adopted a proposal to uplist all tur subspecies to Appendix II. International hunters are now required to have a CITES export permit. A provision in the original proposal, including a zero quota for wild-taken Western tur was fortunately defeated. Sustainable-use hunting programs in Russia and Azerbaijan continue to benefit tur conservation.
SCI Foundation’s new Russia East Caucasian Tur Project will fill needed scientific gaps and inform the management of a CITES-listed hunted game species in Central Asia.