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The brown bear (Ursus arctos) population in the Middle East is one of the rarest, most threatened, and least-known large carnivore species. Regarded as a unique subspecies by some researchers (U. a. syriacus or Syrian brown bear), this population is classified as Endangered by the IUCN. In Iraq, the brown bear has been overlooked in terms of research and conservation efforts, despite facing significant threats from illegal hunting, habitat destruction and fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, and many years of military activities within its last remaining habitats along the border with Turkey, Syria, and Iran.

This project by Leopards Beyond Borders, financially supported by Bears in Mind since 2024, aims to address the conservation needs of the brown bear population in Iraqi Kurdistan through two main components. Firstly, it aims to gather citizen-science data for a robust analysis of the brown bear distribution and population status in a priority area to: a) recommend suitable habitat for the bear in the study area, and b) identify key areas for bear-related conflict mitigation measures. Secondly, it aims to implement a comprehensive awareness campaign targeted at the importance of the brown bear as a keystone species and mobilising public support for their conservation.

Qara-Dagh (c) Hana Raza