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Премия рунета 2017


09 november 2022
After a little more than 3.5 months, we can say that leopards have perfectly settled in the region, successfully hunt and prepare for winter, "dressing up" in fluffy fur coats. It was possible to find pictures of Khosta on one of the camera traps

Scientists are continuously monitoring released Persian Leopards in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. It is safe to say that nowadays all animals are healthy and lead an active lifestyle and have almost completely mastered the space of Turmonskiy Forestry, where they were released. They hunt regularly and don't starve, which is very important, because autumn is a so-called very 'scrupulous' feeding period for all predators. At this time, the animals change their fur from summer to a new fluffy winter one. There is also an intensive body weight gain, and the build-up of the fat layer. Thanks to the successful feeding period, predators survive in cold winters, their body does not require an increase in the frequency of hunting in winter and, therefore, animals can afford to switch to a more energy-saving mode of life.

The female Laura has mastered an area of 262 sq. km, and the male Leo - 326 sq. km. so far. At the same time, the second female - Khosta - has mastered a plot more than twice the area of both Laura and Leo's territories - 1,293 sq. km. It is also possible to note the individual preferences of leopards when using space and choosing hunting objects. Laura loves the most inaccessible places of Turmonskiy Forestry - gorges, cliffs, rocky areas, stepped walls, which makes it difficult for researchers to work in the field. This female perfectly hunts wild hoofed animals (roe deer) in the forest thickets, while not exhausting herself with difficult hunts and alternates the prey of roe deer and medium-sized victims (badgers, raccoon dogs). At the same time, Khosta prefers places with more accessible terrain both for hunting and for moving. However, she is not afraid to cross serious rivers and even dared to cross the highway safely. Scientists note that she does not like to take risks in hunting and prefers small types of victims that are easier to get: badgers, raccoon dogs, jackals, etc. As for Leo, he is the most economical in spending his strength - he prefers clearings, field woodlands and edges over hiking in the mountains. The diversity of the species of harvested animals has not increased since the last study, only their number has changed. Each leopard has taken at least 15 victims so far. If we analyze the time of day for hunting that leopards choose, then we can say that in late summer and early autumn they chose mainly the dusk. Nevertheless, each predator has an individual peak of daily activity. Laura prefers hunting during the evening twilight, whereas Leo prefers the night hours and the morning twilight. Khosta hunts both in the evening and in the morning. At the same time, none of them hunted during the daytime.

"Successful hunting, development of territories and different types of landscape – all of the above indicates sufficient adaptation of released cats to living in natural conditions. And the fact that they remain in Turmon, testifies to the correct choice of the place of release. There is enough prey here and the habitat conditions are suitable for leopards." - says Valery Shmunk, Director of Russian Caucasus Ecoregional Office WWF-Russia.

Since the release, Khosta has traveled the longest way – 503 km, Leo - 377 km, Laura has walked 397 km, but on a very difficult terrain. For all three months after the release, despite the fact that all three leopards kept within the same forest area, they have never met. However, it can be stated that they certainly communicate indirectly. For example, Khosta has repeatedly checked Leo's hunting sites.

A routine check of the camera traps yielded results – the first photo of Khosta in the nature. It was obtained thanks to the camera traps installed prior to the Persian Leopards release on the territory of the Sanctuary. The technical facilities are an additional means of monitoring animals and allow experts to assess condition of the predators on the outside. In addition, thanks to the photographs, it is possible to analyze the species of hoofed animals that are the food base of spotted predators in the forest belt of North Ossetia.
Khosta female
Khosta female
Khosta female
Checking the camera trap © IEE RAS
The Persian Leopard Reintroduction Program is implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources 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 Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).