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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Identifying a future for the Caucasian leopard

Benjamin Bleyhl is a doctoral researcher at the Biogeography and Conservation Biology lab in the Geography Department of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. His research interests include large mammal conservation and the identification of strategies and landscapes that mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.

Photo: Barekese Water Treatment Plant, Ghana 2009


Photo: Painting of a leopard by Georgian artist Merab Abramishvili


Biodiversity is declining rapidly, due mainly to habitat loss and overhunting. Large carnivores are particularly challenging to protect because they need extensive habitat and often conflict with people or land use. Maintaining and restoring large carnivore populations and identifying viable futures for them are therefore central goals for conservation science. One of the last truly wild places in Europe, where large carnivores still roam freely, is the Caucasus. Unfortunately, habitat loss, fragmentation, and poaching are severely threatening many large mammals there.

The goal of this project is to identify pathways to safeguard the Caucasian leopard, one of the most threatened large carnivores worldwide, by (1) using new satellite remote sensing approaches to identify potential corridors among leopard populations, (2) mapping habitat distribution and quality of the leopard’s key prey species, (3) identifying core leopard habitat across the region as well as potential habitat sinks due to conflict with people, and (4) analyzing the potential to establish a viable leopard metapopulation in the Southern Caucasus.

This project will provide novel insight into what determines landscapes that allow for the coexistence of people and predators as well as new knowledge about large mammal ecology in an understudied biodiversity hotspot. More broadly, it will contribute substantially to conservation science and wildlife ecology, while providing baseline data to guide conservation efforts.

Benjamin Bleyhl has a Bachelor in Landscape Ecology from the University of Münster and a Master in Physical Geography of Human Environmental Systems from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He has worked in various conservation projects, from counting butterfly eggs in the Pyrenees to restoring wetlands for migrating birds at the Baltic Sea coast. After his Masters, Benjamin worked as a research assistant at the Geography Department to identify potential European bison habitat in Germany together with WWF. Benjamin is currently funded through an Elsa-Neumann Scholarship to do his PhD.

 

Richard Appiah Otoo

Contact

Benjamin Bleyhl, Doctoral Researcher
THESys Graduate Program
Phone: +49 (0)30 2093 5394
Email: Benjamin.bleyhl@geo.hu-berlin.de