More regions of Russia are willing to return a leopard

The Program for the Persian Leopard Reintroduction in the Caucasus extends to new regions. WWF Russia discussed cooperation with Ministries of Natural Resources of Dagestan and North Ossetia.

A meeting of a WWF of Russia's representatives with the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Republic of Dagestan Nabiyula Karachayev took place in Makhachkala. The participants discussed the first-priority measures necessary for recovery of the Persian leopard in the region.

Locals of the mountain regions of Dagestan tell that they sometimes meet a leopard, which allows to say that animals still come into the republic from neighboring countries. However for recovering of leopard population in Dagestan many efforts will be required. First of all it is important to prepare the territory thoroughly.

Firstly it is necessary to broaden the Tlyaratinsky federal wildlife area. Extension of that territory is planned by adding of two regional nature reserves – Kosobsko-Kelebsky and Bezhtinskiy. It can be made until the end of the current year – Year of the Ecology and Protected areas.

In case of expansion of the territory the modern nature protection approaches, that also consider interests of local, population will be used. And settlements won't be included in structure of the wildlife area.

It is also necessary to strengthen protection of the territory to provide protection, as for predators, and for the main objects of their hunt – to hoofed animals (deer, aurochs, chamois, boar). And the number of hoofed animals still should be recovered that leopards had no problems with getting of food, and it will be easier for them to adapting in the new territory. Further it is necessary to organize monitoring: to install photo traps and to train people who will watch leopards and hoofed animals subsequently.

Success of the program for reintroduction of a leopard in the Caucasus in many respects depends on the attitude of locals towards an animal. «Locals must understand that leopards are not a threat for them. The leopard is a very reserved animal, and never attacks first. Once it noticed human, this animal always tries to leave unnoticed. It was proved by our experience with the animals released in the territory of Caucasus Biosphere Reserve», – Igor Chestin, the director of WWF of Russia says.

For work on preparation of the territory about 2-3 years will be required. In the spring within the project on preserving of big cat species in the Russian Federation, financed by VTB bank, experts will conduct field surveys in Dagestan for identification of the suitable places for release of the Persian leopards.  They will also develop recommendations about nesessary measures to increase in number of ungulates.

After assessment of readiness of the chosen territories in the mountains of Dagestan the first leopards, prepared in the Center of recovery of a leopard in Sochi National Park, can be released into the wild. This is the only place in the world, where Persian leopards are prepared for life in the wild nature. Three males and three females have been delivered there and later gave birth to a total of 14 kittens. Three of these young leopards – Victoria, Akhun and Killy – have been released into the wild in the summer of 2016. The released leopards are being closely monitored. This experience will also be used for the organization of monitoring in Dagestan.

In January at the initiative of WWF, North Ossetia has joined the program for reintroduction of the Persian leopard in the Caucasus. Now the plan of measures is developed for the region.

The Program for the Persian Leopard Reintroduction in the Caucasus is being implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia in cooperation with the Sochi National Park, Caucasian Nature Reserve, A. N. Severtsov Institute (IPEE RAS), Moscow Zoo, and WWF Russia, with support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).

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