Two Persian leopard kittens born in Russia
The baby leopards were born soon after two kittens were born to a pair of Persian leopards brought to the same park from Lisbon Zoo.
Chery and Alous first met in 2011, and their date started with a fight: Alous grabbed Chery by the withers – a usual move at the beginning of mating. However, young and unexperienced Chery decided that the leopard was attacking her and started to fight back. Only after a while the cats got used to each other and formed a pair.
“The fact that wild leopards managed to produce offspring in captivity is a big win for Russian conservation experts. It is a unique precedent, and we are glad that we managed to achieve this result”, says head of the Persian leopard breeding and reintroduction center Umar Semyonov.
As this was Chery’s first pregnancy, after birth she started to take care only of one of the babies and rejected the second one. He was picked up by staff of the Center. Now the baby leopard is artificially fed and is feeling well.
The second leopard baby is in a den with his mother. Same as two kittens born on July 12 to leopards Zadig and Andrea, he will be released into the wild in the Kavkazsky Nature Reserve around 2015, after they’re prepared for independent life. These three leopards will start the new population of this subspecies in the Russian Caucasus.
“The territory of the Kavkazsky Nature Reserve is ready to welcome the cats”, says WWF-Russia CEO Igor Chestin. “A recent photocensus, organized by WWF, showed that the number of ungulates has significantly increased. Phototraps caught big groups of chamois and other species hunted by the leopard”.
Unlike the other kittens, the leopard baby that was rejected by his mother will never be released into the wild. He will get used to people and won’t be able to adopt to independent life. But it is very valuable for leopard breeding programs, because it was born to wild leopards. The current situation is that different zoos and breeding centers have only 108 Persian leopards, and they all descend from just 10 founders, so they are in desperate need of “new genes”.
In the 20th century, the leopard disappeared from the Russian Caucasus because of humans, mostly due to poaching. The Persian Leopard Reintroduction Program is run by the Ministry of natural resources and environment of the Russian Federation with participation of the Sochi National Park, Caucasus Nature Reserve, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, WWF and Moscow Zoo.
The expertise of the Persian leopard restoration program will be used in the Far East of Russia – a habitat of less than 50 Far Eastern leopards – the most endangered leopard subspecies in the world. “The Persian leopard program allowed to form a group of experts from different organization whose experience will allow to successfully implement a similar project for Far Eastern leopards”, says Igor Chestin from WWF-Russia.