Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Investigation into death of Russian leopard continues

VLADIVOSTOK, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - The Interior Ministry is investigating whether a criminal case should be opened following the death of a Far Eastern leopard by suspected poachers in the Primorye Territory, a ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

The leopard carcass was discovered Monday in the Khasansky region, in the Primorye Territory, following an anonymous telephone call, said Vitaly Starostin, a deputy chief from a local wildlife watchdog.

"It was a fully grown female. The animal had a bullet wound and had been hit over the head with a heavy instrument," Starostin said. "The murder of any Far Eastern leopard could lead to the extinction of the species, which is currently in a critical situation."

According to a census, which was carried out last week, there are just 25-34 Far Eastern leopards left, which makes it the rarest wild cat and it has been entered in the international red book of endangered species.

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