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VLADIVISTOK, December 04, 17:42 /ITAR-TASS/. A leopard nicknamed Tolsty (the fat one), which had been monitored by ecologists in the Maritime region in the Russian Far East for twenty years, has vanished from sight.
The leopard was featured in seven documentary films. The first film shot in 1996 featured the young, strong male coming into possession of "its hunting premises" in the southwest of the Maritime region. Since then dozens of video and photo cameras had been following every move of the animal which had kept its "hunting premises" under reliable control, ousting younger and stronger rivals.
Time did a fatal thing: Tolsty grew old and yielded its territory to a younger male, vanishing from sight altogether. The last film about the famous leopard was titled "Farewell to the Actor".
When Tolsty became a master on its "hunting premises," only one- third of its private “hunting” land had been under state protection, while ecologists were making efforts to drew public attention to the leopard which was under the threat of extinction. The ecologists used the documentary films about the leopard to prove the importance of creating a nature park in the southwest of the Maritime region. "The nature park exists now, to a great extent thanks to Tolsty — the famous leopard," said ecologist Vasily Solkin.
The natural park — The Land of the Leopard, was established by a governmental resolution last year to ensure protection of a rare animal species — the Far Eastern Leopard. It has a territory of 262,000 hectares and incorporates the Kedrovaya Padj and the Leopardovy nature reserves.
Over the past twenty years the leopard's habitat has dwindled almost twice to a critically low level. However, over the past two years hopes that the animal will survive have been revived, given that the leopard population rose from 35 to 45-50 species in the outgoing year.