Persian leopards go online
Four leopards that live in the pens of the Sochi National Park came to Russia from Iran and Turkmenistan. Their cubs will establish a new population of the Persian leopard in the Russian Caucasus, destroyed half a century ago by poaching. The reintroduction program is now under way, led by the Ministry of natural resources and environment of the Russian Federation, Sochi National Park, Caucasus State Nature Reserve, Institute of ecology and evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences, WWF, and Moscow Zoo.
“To increase chances of leopard breeding, it is necessary to minimize disturbance, so a limited number of people have access to the pens – only for feeding, cleaning and veterinary care. Now anyone can have a look at what’s going on at any time”, says Natalia Dronova, WWF-Russia species coordinator. “However, you should keep in mind that leopards are especially active at dawn and dusk. They usually spend the rest of the time in the cave now”.
Starting from today, live video and video and photo archives are available on www.wwf.ru/leo. 2-minute videos are recorded every 2 hours; pictures are taken every 5 minutes.
Park staff have already presented two females – Chery and Mino – to one of the males, Alous. According to them, Alous prefers the elder female, Chery. “Chery and Alous are on friendly terms, and understand each others’ mood. They don’t show any aggression towards each other. Some time ago we let them spend 9 days and nights together. In mid-January, it rained for several days and surprisingly, leopards went to sleep in the same cave instead of going each to its own”, says Umar Semyonov, head of the Persian Leopard Reintroduction Center of the Sochi National Park.
Alous and Chery are not a couple yet, and still live separately. You can see on the camera overlooking Alous’s pen, that the leopard often walks to the neighbouring Chery’s pen «to say hi». Sometimes it climbs on top of the cave to watch her from over there.
As for Mino, it tried to start playing with Alous for several hours during their meeting, but her restlessness drove him away. He climbed on a platform inside the pen and didn’t let her approach. Mino is still too little for breeding, so the second male, General, will stay single for a while.
Now, to ensure continuation of the program, WWF is looking for new sponsors. Funds are needed for the construction of a large 6-hectare pen in the Kavkazsky nature reserve, where 1-1.5-year old leopards will be brought to learn hunting before release into the wild. The pen will be inhabited by deer and wild boars so that leopards can practice catching them on their own. Besides, WWF will increase ungulate population in the Kavkazsky nature reserve by improving anti-poaching work, making salt licks, etc – so that released leopards have abundant prey available for them. Environmentalists also need funds to bring new leopards – one or even two couples are not sufficient for the breeding program.
“Leopard reintroduction is a long and complex process: we need to prepare the area for the leopards: increase ungulate population, improve protection from poachers”, says Yury Trutnev, Minister of natural resources and environment of the Russian Federation. According to him, breeding of the leopards and release of their cubs into the wild will take several years: the young must first learn to survive.