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Rare Persian leopards Born in Russian National Park after More than 50 Years: WWF

Jul 19, 2013 09:27 AM EDT
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Two rare Persian leopard cubs have been born at the Persian Leopard Breeding and Rehabilitation Centre, Sochi National Park in south-western Russia, WWF reported. This is the first time in over 50 years that any national park in Russia has reported the birth of the extremely rare cat species.

The Persian leopard, Panthera pardus, is a solitary cat that once roamed throughout Africa, Central Asia and parts of Russia. They are highly a highly adaptable species and can survive in arid regions, grasslands and forests. They are sometimes mistaken for "snow leopards" due to the color of their fur. Major threats to their populations include poaching, loss of prey, and fragmentation of habitat.

There are fewer than 1,209 Persian Leopards living in Iran, eastern Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains, southern Turkmenistan and parts of western Afghanistan, according to the agency. The species is currently categorized as endangered by the IUCN. Birth of Persian Leopard cubs, thus, is major news for conservationists trying to reintroduce the endangered species back in the wild.

The cubs' parents are Zadig and Andrea who were brought to the national park in 2012. The cats were born last week and are currently with their mother and are expected to come out of their den only after about two months.

"It is too early to tell the sex of the cubs. They're in the den with their mother and centre staff don't want to disturb them", said Umar Semyonov, head of the breeding center.

"They will be released into the wild after learning surviving skills and will start a new population of the leopards in the Caucasus Mountains", said Natalia Dronova, WWF-Russia species coordinator, according to a news release.

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