Another pair of Persian leopards born in Russia
Their parents, wild Chery and Alous, were brought to the Persian leopard reintroduction centre in Sochi National Park in the Russian Caucasus Mountains from Iran and Turkmenistan.
“The fact that wild leopards managed to produce offspring in captivity is a big win for Russian conservation experts. It is a unique precedent, and we are glad that we managed to achieve this result”, said Head of the Persian leopard breeding and reintroduction centre Umar Semyonov.
As this was the leopards first pregnancy, the mother abandoned one of the cubs, this newborn was picked up by staff of the Center, and is now being artificially fed and is feeling well.
The second leopard baby is in a den with his mother and he will be released, along with the previous two kittens born in July, into the wild in the Kavkazsky Nature Reserve around 2015, once they are prepared for independent life. These three leopards will start the new population of this subspecies in the Russian Caucasus.
“The territory of the Kavkazsky Nature Reserve is ready to welcome the cats”, says WWF-Russia CEO Igor Chestin.
“A recent photocensus, organized by WWF, showed that the number of potential prey has significantly increased, phototraps caught big groups of chamois and other species hunted by the leopard”.
Unlike the other kittens, the leopard baby that was rejected by his mother will never be released into the wild as he will get used to people and won’t be able to adapt to independent life.
The kitten, however is very valuable for leopard breeding programs as it was born to wild leopards. Currently different zoos and breeding centres have only 108 Persian leopards, and they all descend from just 10 founders, so they are in desperate need of “new genes”.
The Persian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) population, once widespread throughout this mountainous region between the Black and Caspian Seas, declined drastically throughout the 20th century due to poaching and habitat loss. It is believed that only a few leopards now live there.
The Persian Leopard Reintroduction Program is run by the Ministry of natural resources and environment of the Russian Federation with participation of the Sochi National Park, Caucasus Nature Reserve, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, WWF and Moscow Zoo.
The expertise of the Persian leopard restoration program will be used in the Far East of Russia, a habitat for less than 50 Far Eastern leopards, the most endangered leopard subspecies in the world.