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VLADIVOSTOK, December 25. /ITAR-TASS/. A leopard with white "gloves" roaming the Land of Leopards national park in Russia's Far East Primorsky territory is the Lord of all he surveys - the beast's new name chosen in a contest running over several months and attracting ideas from 1,000 entrants from all over Russia.
The competition was the idea of scientists taking a special interest in the animal's distinctive paws since it arrived at the park in March. Discoloration might be the sign of a genetic mutation specially important in the study of an endangered species, the experts thought.
And here, they thought further, was a beast whose distinctive coat would help fuel interest among the region's nature lovers, encouraged by the competition's fun.
They underestimated the response, though. Word of the animal's existence - and the competition - spread from region to region.
“We wanted to attract attention of Primorsky people to the preservation of leopards. But letters soon came from other regions,” park deputy director Yelena Salmanova said.
Names came from all over - cities as well as small settlements, names submitted by contestants aged from six to 91. Despite vast geography and age diversity among the entrants, names such as Leo, Lord, Dandy, Frant (another world for Dandy in Russian), Leon, Hasan, Amur, Vladik, Primorets and Consul prevailed.
And a lottery drum chose one of the most popular names. Lord won the day, attributed from among the 26 people who suggested it to 24-year-old Polina Kotova from Sverdlovsk region.
Lord's home in the Land of Leopards covers more than 262,000 hectares, established last year to protect the rare Far Eastern leopard inhabiting a limited territory in Primorsky's south-[west.
Over the last 20 years, its habitat has decreased by half and the population has fallen to a critically low level. But a glimmer of hope has flickered recently that the species could survive. This year, their number has increased from 35 to between 45 or 50, according to calculations.