TWO PERSIAN LEOPARDS WERE RELEASED INTO THE WILD IN THE CAUCASUS
Today in the morning being in special wooden transportation boxes, the predators were taken to the slope of Yiatygvarta mountain by helicopter. After them, the participants of the event arrived. They are Elena Panova, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, Vyzcheslav Fetisov, UN-Environment Patron for Polar Regions, Dmitry Gorshkov, - Director of WWF-Russia, Sergey Shevelev, Director of The Caucasian State Natural Biosphere Reserve, Pavel Khotsenko, Director of Sochi National Park, and other partners of Persian leopard Reintroduction program in the Caucasus.
Before being released into the wild, animals undergo full training and pass real exams. From birth, these animals learn to hunt independently and survive in the wild. For this purpose, in 2009, a special Leopard Reintroduction Center was built in the Caucasus, which is located in Sochi National Park. At the age of two, leopards pass exams, during which experts from the A. N. Severtsov Insitute of Ecology and Evolution and the Moscow zoo assess their ability to hunt, avoid humans and livestock, their physical condition and social competence when interacting with their relatives. After successful testing, leopards are put on satellite collars for further monitoring, which allow them to track the migration of animals and get information about their adaptation processes.
At the event, Elena Panova noted the importance of Persian leopard reintroduction Program in the Caucasus and stressed the significant role that the predator plays in the ecosystem of Southern Russia. Ms. Panova wished all participants of the Program further success in the work on the leopard reintroduction, and the culprits of the solemn event - to safely get used to the wild.
The new inhabitants of the Caucasus Reserve are male Kodor (brother of Akhun and Artek who both living in this region) and female Laba (born from other parents). "Kodor and Laba successfully passed all the exams, so we have no doubt that they will adapt perfectly to the natural environment. Taking into account that two males (Akhun and Artek) are already living on the territory of the Caucasus Reserve, and another one was released today, we hope that this year a pair can be formed that will bring the first kittens born in the wild." - said Dmitriy Gorshkov, Director of WWF-Russia.
This is the third release on the territory of the Caucasus Reserve. The first three animals were released in 2016, and the next one was released in 2018. During this time, the leopards have settled in and demonstrated a high level of adaptation into the wild, which indicates, among other things, the correct choice of release location. "The Caucasian Reserve is ideal for Persian leopards life, ranging from landscape and climate, ending prey species abundance, which makes it comfortable for the big cats" - says Sergey Shevelev, Director of The Caucasian State Natural Biosphere Reserve.
"Releasing animals into the wild is a large step. It is important that good neighbourly relations are maintained between leopards and locals," - explains Valeriy Shmunk, Director of Russian Caucasus Ecoregional Office WWF-Russia. - "This is why WWF-Russia conducts systematic and regular work with the locals, telling them about the Leopard Reintroduction Program, rules of behaviour when encountering predators, safe cattle grazing, etc. This is a complex work aimed at forming a positive attitude to the leopard, which will allow people and wild cats to live in peace and harmony."
In the coming days, two more leopards will be released in North Ossetia-Alania. Baksan (male) and Agura (female) will join Volna already living there (2018 release).
The Persian leopard reintroduction program is implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation with the participation of the Sochi National Park, Caucasus reserve, WWF-Russia, the A. N. Severtsov Insitute of Ecology and Evolution, the Institute of Ecology of Mountain Territories and Moscow zoo, as well as with the assistance of the International Union for Сonservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).