22 May 2007
Sochi, Russia – WWF has launched a major reintroduction project that will see the critically endangered Persian leopards, virtually extinct in Russia, thrive once again in its former habitat in the country’s Northern Caucasus region.
The Persian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana), once widespread throughout this mountainous region between the Black and Caspian Seas, saw its numbers decline drastically by the 20th century due to poaching and habitat loss. It is believed that only a few leopards now inhabit the area.
“The number of leopards here is too small for the species to reproduce itself,” said Igor Chestin, WWF-Russia’s CEO. “Only reintroduction can help return the species to the Northern Caucasus.”
Supported by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and local businesses, WWF will construct specially-made pens in Sochi National Park for several leopards currently in captivity from throughout the country. The offspring of these leopards will become part of a new founder population for the region.
“The goals we have set are challenging and the stakes are high, but we are glad that our idea of re-introducing the leopard in the Russian Caucasus has received support,” Chestin added.
In addition to leopards to the Russian Caucasus, WWF plans to restore deer populations to the region — the leopard’s main prey — and reinforce anti-poaching activities.
• The WWF Persian leopard project is one of the first conservation projects in Russia to be mostly sponsored by Russian businesses, which includes Russian mobile operator Vympelcom (Beeline) and the Roza Khutor ski resort.
For further information:
Darya Kudryavtseva, Press Officer
Tel: +495 727 0939