LEOPARD VICTORIA CAUGHT IN ABKHAZIA IS RELEASED INTO THE WILD
A releasing platform was prepared on the top of the mountain. After the team that was releasing the animal landed and opened the gate, the leopard found itself back in its natural habitat, where it spent his previous year and a half.
At the same time a group of field monitoring landed on the territory of the Caucasian reserve. They were going to examine the releasing area, check camera traps and availability of food in this area to make sure that the leopard would be able to make it through the winter safely.
Earlier the animal had successfully re-passed the certification the Caucasus Leopard Recovery Center in Sochi. According to scientists, Victoria ought to make it through the winter successfully, especially if it stays in the reserve.
During the evaluation of the behavior of the leopard by specialists at the Caucasus Leopard Recovery Center, Victoria showed good results. She succeeded in all the tests, including a test of a natural fear of a wild animal in front of a human.
The female leopard was released in the same place as before when she had left the Caucasus Leopard Recovery Center in Sochi for the first time. During the examination the cat was already wearing a satellite collar, which will allow scientists to monitor that the animal does not approach human settlements.
The release was observed by the specialists of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, the Caucasian State Nature Biosphere Reserve, the Caucasus Leopard Recovery Center, ANO "Center of nature of the Caucasus", the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Moscow Zoo. Vadim Khintba, a resident of the village in Abkhazia who reported in November about the whereabouts of the leopard, received a special invitation of the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Victoria is one of three leopard species that were released into the wild from the Caucasus Leopard Recovery Center in July 2016. All animals were wearing satellite collars so scientists could monitor their movements and study their behavior in the wild. The collars worked for one year and then they were automatically dropped.
Victoria was discovered in mid-November by the residents of the village of Lykhny, 5 km from Gudauta (Abkhazia). The cat occasionally appeared in the village and her presence could not but attract the attention of local residents. Information about the possible presence of the Persian leopard in the territory of Abkhazia was immediately submitted to the authorities of the Republic and to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia. The Head of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia Sergey Donskoy instructed the representatives of the Ministry, of the Caucasian nature reserve, of the Moscow Zoo and of the Caucasus Leopard Recovery Center in Sochi National Park to arrive at the site in order to establish the origin and the species of the animal. By the morning of November 16 the group of specialists arrived at the site. The animal was temporary immobilized, and after that a conducted genetic analysis confirmed that it was a female leopard who had been released on the territory of the Caucasian reserve in 2016. A further veterinary examination revealed an excellent condition of the animal.
The programme for the rehabilitation of Persian leopard in the Caucasus is implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation involving Sochi national Park, Caucasus nature reserve, the Caucasus Leopard Recovery Center, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) RAS, Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, the Moscow Zoo, ANO "Center of nature of the Caucasus" and in cooperation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).