27 September 2013, 20:20

Persian leopard to be re-introduced to Western Caucasus

Persian leopard to be re-introduced to Western Caucasus

The Sochi National Park is into a fifth year of a Putin-initiated programme to reintroduce the Persian leopard to the Western Caucasus. A year after the Sochi Winter Olympics this February, several adult leopards and their young will be released from their open-air enclosures into the wild.

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Photo: www.mnr.gov.ru

Dr Umar Semenov is in charge of the leopard programme at the Sochi Park:

“Our founding population consisted of animals brought from Iran and Turkmenistan. Making them mate and breed in captivity, where they felt stressed, was quite a challenge. We pulled it off after two and a half years in which we did our best to get the newcomers to feel safe, comfortable, at ease and inclined to indulge in sexual courtship. Our next litter came from a leopard couple brought from The Lisbon Zoo. They had no problem courting and mating. We now have a population of mixed origin, which makes for genetic health.”

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Photo: EPA

The reintroduction of the Persian Leopard to the Western Caucasus is a joint effort of the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Caucasus Wildlife Reserve, the Sochi National Park, the Moscow Zoo and the WorldWide Fund for Nature.

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Photo: EPA

The Fund’s Russia director Dr Igor Chestin speaks about another high-profile leopard rescue programme:

“In the Land of Leopard national park in the Maritime Territory of the Russian Far East, we have managed to boost the population of the critically endangered Amur leopard to 50 animals. This is still too few. When we have dozens more, we will start releasing them into the wild.”

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Photo: EPA

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