MOSCOW, November 16. /TASS/. Specialists have confirmed that the leopard caught after repeatedly snatching hens in an Abkhazian settlement, was released into the wild from a breeding farm in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi last year. It is now driven back to Russia, the director of the Abkhazian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Ecology told TASS on Thursday.
According to earlier reports, local residents made a trap to catch the leopard that had been sneaking into the village to snatch hens for about a week. They put a live hen into the cage to lure the leopard into the trap. The leopard was not injured. Specialists from the Caucasian nature reserve and the Moscow Zoo headed to the site to identify the wild animal.
"Experts found out that the caught leopard was one of the three species released into the wild in July last year," Roman Dbar told TASS.
The leopard was sedated and is now on its way to Russia. "Upon instructions from the Abkhazian prime minister, a ‘green corridor’ was organized on the border for a quick passage," the Institute of Ecology director said.
Until the middle of the 20th century, Persian leopards were common in the Caucasus. But by 1950, their population had dramatically decreased, and was entirely extinct in some areas due to human activities.
In 2004-2005 there were only 10-15 Persian leopards living in the wild in Russia. In 2005, experts from WWF-Russia and the Russian Academy of Sciences came forward with a long-term plan to reintroduce Persian leopards in the Caucasus. The program has been supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin since 2009.
In 2009, a leopard reintroduction center opened at a nature reserve near the Black Sea resort city of Sochi with support from WWF.
Initially, the Center hosted two males from Turkmenistan and two females from Iran. Later, a leopard pair was brought from the Lisbon Zoo and had their first litter in 2013. By 2016, a total of 14 kittens were born.
Three of them were released into the wild in the Caucasus (Kavkazsky) State Nature Biosphere Reserve in July 2016.