Improving water access for goitered gazelles in the transboundary area of Azerbaijan and Georgia

Single gazelle in grassland landscape

In the early 1900s, the goitered gazelle population in the Caucasus declined rapidly due to hunting and agricultural expansion, leading to extinction in Georgia and parts of Azerbaijan in the 1960s. Conservation efforts and the establishment of protected areas have resulted in an increase in gazelle numbers, with the majority now found in isolated protected areas along the Caspian Sea coast. Since 2012, reintroduction and translocation activities have been carried out in the Azerbaijan-Georgia transboundary area to restore gazelles to their historical habitats.

Although the gazelles were driven to near extinction by external factors, the impacts of climate change pose one of the most critical challenges they face today. The region is characterized by arid and semi-arid landscapes with limited annual rainfall and high temperatures, and as a result, the gazelles have faced increasing water scarcity, jeopardizing their already compromised population. With the help of the Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund, WWF-Caucasus and the Governments of Azerbaijan and Georgia combatted this problem by creating watering holes for the vulnerable gazelle populations.

Completed watering hole in Azerbaijan

Completed watering hole in Georgia

In Azerbaijan, water was piped 5 miles from a natural spring in the mountains to the lowlands where three artificial watering holes were constructed. The pipes used the spring’s natural flow to get the water to the watering holes, thus eliminating the need for energy-powered water pumps. In Georgia, water was pumped from an artificial canal off the Iori River into three arranged watering holes 2.5 miles away. Solar panels were installed to run the pumps. These measures provided a reliable water supply for gazelles, especially during the driest times of the year, ultimately supporting the establishment of self-sustaining populations in the gazelles’ historical habitats.