Persian leopards begin to hunt in the Caucasus nature reserve
According to the group of specialists that are monitoring the released leopards, all three animals keep close to the place of release. Males Akhun and Killi traveled a short distance. Female leopard Victoria covered the longest distance. Animals are behaving just like the experts expected – they are gradually domesticating the territory.
«Akhun chose the most fortunate place – he went on to the rocky area with lots of chamois and turs. This seems to be an ideal place for the leopard» - says Igor Chestin, WWF Russia CEO.
According to the Russia’s Minister of Natural resources Sergey Donskoy, leopards are located within a radius of 7 km from the place of their release. This confirms that the territory for the first stage of reintroduction was chosen correctly and special measures that have been taken to prepare the territory were effective.
“I’m sure that the animals are already hunting in the natural habitat, this is what we can conclude from the satellite collars data. Akhun is going in circles within a small territory, this means that his hunt was successful” – says Sergey Donskoy.
To make sure that the animals are hunting well in the wild habitat and are able to secure themselves enough prey, a group of the field observers will examine potential places for leopard’s hunt. This will be done very carefully without disturbing the animals.
Leading zoologists will be monitoring the released leopards daily. In case of emergency a mobile response unit has all the necessary equipment to locate and reach the affected animal.
Three leopards – Victoria, Akhun and Killi – will become the founders of the new population of the Persian leopard in Russia. They were born in the Centre for Breeding and Reintroduction of the Leopard in Sochi National Park founded in 2009 with WWF-Russia’s active involvement and support. Here young leopards reached the breeding age and received a specially-designed training for independent survival in the wild. Satellite collars were put on the leopards prior to the release to allow scientists to obtain information about their movements after the release. Additionally, 24 photo-traps were also installed on the ground to monitor the animals.
In total, 14 cubs were born in the Center in the last four years from different leopard couples. Leopards confined in zoos cannot be effectively released into the wild, because they can’t hunt and have no fear of humans.
The Program is implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation with the participation of the Sochi National Park, Caucasus (Kavkazsky) State Nature Biosphere Reserve, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Moscow Zoo and WWF-Russia, and with the support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).