The leopards are brought to life by scanning the floor markings with a smartphone app

The leopards are brought to life by scanning the floor markings with a smartphone app

You’ll need a smartphone to see them, but virtual leopards have been on the prowl up and down Armenia this summer, as part of a WWF campaign to raise awareness about one of the Caucasus region’s most elusive residents.

As part of the competition “Photo with the Leopard”, special ground markers and banners were placed at 11 locations across Armenia. Smartphone users could then download an application allowing them to bring a virtual ‘leopard’ to life. After emerging from the floor, the app allows the user to watch the leopard circle around the markings before coming to a stop, where competition hopefuls could take a picture with the big cat.

The competition was a huge hit in Armenia, where many people got their first glance – albeit digital – of the notoriously reclusive creature. Caucasian (or Persian) Leopards could once be found all across the South Caucasus region, but pressures on habitats mean their current range is restricted to Southern Armenia and parts of South-Eastern and South-Western Azerbaijan.

Some of the competition participants tried to get creative, with one contestant sending in a picture of himself playing chess with his new feline friend.

One user managed to sit down with the virtual leopard for a game of chess

One user managed to sit down with the virtual leopard for a game of chess

The competition has now closed, with WWF Armenia’s leopard project staff sifting through the many images they received. The lucky winner will be awarded with a mountain bike.

“We received literally hundreds of photos” says WWF Leopard Project Coordinator, Arsen Gasparyan, “including from Russia, Germany and the USA, with 6, 400 scans of the leopard markers registered.”

“I believe the use of modern technology will increase the efficiency of our campaign to create a unique connection between man and nature – this is the first time VR technology has been used to raise awareness about a threatened species.”

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Joseph Alexander Smith is Communications and Visibility Assistant at CNF. Originally from the United Kingdom, Joseph is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Tbilisi since 2012. He has a weekly show on Radio GIPA 94.3 FM and is actively involved in local environmental and urban issues, as well as other media projects.
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