Missing for a century, Russia reintroduces locally-extinct Persian Leopards

The resort city of Sochi, Russia is best known for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Now, the endangered Persian leopard is being reintroduced to the region after almost a century.

Conservationists will release two three-year-old animals within the next few weeks, followed by another pair later this year. Officials hope a leopard colony will again take root in the south eastern corner of Europe and spread eastward.

I had the idea first in 1983,” Head of Russia World Wide Fund (WWF) Igor Chestin said. “Now it’s finally coming to fruition.

The Persian leopard – also known as the Caucasian leopard – had lived in the Caucasus region long before the city of Sochi was founded in the 1800s.

In the 1920s; a campaign based on fear and ignorance eradicated wolves using traps and poisoned meat. But it indiscriminately killed all predators.

Today, there are fewer than 400 Persian leopards in the wild, with the only sustainable wild populations in Iran and Turkmenistan.

The Persian Leopard Breeding and Rehabilitation Centre in Sochi plans to change all that.

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