Ecology and Conservation of Large Mammals

Head of the program: Professor Natia Kopaliani

Participants of the program: Associate Prof. Zurab Gurielidze. Assistant Prof. Bela Japoshvili
Program also involves MA and PhD students of the Ilia State University. 
Contact person: Natia Kopaliani
mail: natia_kopaliani@iliauni.edu.ge; tel.: 899 552 994

 

Summary of the Project

Influence of large land and sea mammals on vital capacity of other populations, flora and entire structure of the landscape and their importance became reason for naming them the “key genera of the ecosystem”. Large mammals are considered to be monitor types as it possible to assess structural and qualitative changes of an ecosystem based on their condition. Majority of large mammals, which are found on the territory of Georgia are enlisted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in the register of endangered species. Part of the species are endemic to the Caucasus making their study important for preservation of biodiversity of not only Georgian but global environment as well. 

Program sets the goal to conduct ecologic study of large land and sea (namely the Black Sea) mammals in order to preserve and restore them. Major interest of the study is focused on all three types of whales, vulnerable types of ungulate animals and conflict between humans and predators and its resolution. Program foresees cooperation with foreign colleagues and involvement in the research process of students from different academic levels. 

 

Program description 

Goals of the program:
  • Ecologic study of large land and sea mammals of Georgia, their preservation and restoration;
  • Involvement of students in the study of large mammals in order to develop applied research in the realm of conservation biology;
  • Establishment of relationships among scholars from different countries in order to get familiar with modern research methods and exchange experience in the frames of the joint projects. 
Research projects/directions of the program:
  • Ecological study of sea mammals
Duration: 10 years
  1. Spatial distribution of three types of dolphins in the Black Sea (Tursiops truncatus, Delphinus delphis, Phocoena phocoena) 
  2. Study of food base
  3. Assessment of current threats
  4. Definition of sites of vital importance
  5. Assessment of size of the population (numbers) and its dynamics
  6. Interspecific relationships. 
  • Recolonization of wolves in Georgia: reasons for establishment of new human-predator hot spots and ways of their regulation
Duration: 2 years
Until the 60s of the 20th century wolf was widespread in the entire Georgia. Later, human persecution and the existence of bonus system caused severe decrease in the number of wolf and its total annihilation in certain places (namely, Kolkheti Lowland) (Materials of Georgian Biodiversity Program, 1996).

Last year’s research (Kopaliani et al, unpublished data) has proved that wolf has appeared in the densely populated places and agricultural lands of Kolkheti Lowland and its outskirts, where it had not appeared for the past 50 years (map #1). The appearing of wolf in the villages of Lower Imereti, Lower Guria and Kobuleti district has created huge problems for the local population. As there are no natural pray species of wolf inhabited  these territories, they attack domestic cattle. The population, which is unaccustomed to the existence of wolves, let their cattle graze without shepherds and sometimes leave them outdoors at night. There are no large-size dogs to protect the cattle and there are almost no hunters capable of wolf liquidation (if necessary). Hence, the conflict between wolf and humans has become especially acute in the places of recolonization.The population panics because of the wolves.  Even though this fear is exaggerated, if no solution is found, there is a threat of erosion of social tolerance, as was the case in certain countries (Gehring, Potter, 2005).

In order to eradicate the human-wolf conflict on the territories occupied by wolves recently (the so-called „Hot spots“), as well as in order to elaborate preventive measures, it is necessary to carry out a detailed research of the recolonization process. 

 

Within the framework of the research we intend to implement the following activities:

  1. Identify all the territories that represent the places from where  wolf dispersion take place (based on last year’s research);
  2. Identify the causes of dispersion: increase in the number, low level of habitat quality (small number of pray species, lack of shelters, increased persecution) 
  3. Use telemetric and molecular-genetic methods in order to find out relation between „The colonist packs“ and „Source populations“;
  4. Based on telemetry, identify the wolves movements during  the recolonization process (which is important for the elaboration of preventive measures);
  5. Based on telemetry, find out which natural or artificial barriers restrict the spreading of wolf;
  6. Using GIS – modelling,  predict where future wolf recolonization activity might occur (this is necessary for the elaboration of preventive measures); 
  7. Identify the territories  and methods that will regulate the number of wolf, as well as the necessity and frequency of this activity, i.e. adaptve management (with the active involvement of the local population in the process of elaboration of regulative mechanisms
  • Study of possibilities to restore rare genera of ungulate animals in Georgia 
Duration: 8 years
  1. Conduct of registration on different territories
  2. Identification of sustainable populations and study of their size dynamics
  3. Identification of inbreeding levels and degree of isolation in populations 
  4. Assessment and identification of habitats, which are suitable for restoration
  5. Identification of possible source populations for translocation
  6. Study of behavior in captivity.

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Web Site Last Update Date :   2014-04-23