A rare leopard was released into the wild with support by RusHydro

24 july 2023

Chelmas, a male rare Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica) bred at the Leopard Recovery Center in Sochi, has been released into the wild in the Turmon Natural Reserve in North Ossetia with the participation of RusHydro.

It is the fourth release of leopards into the wild supported by RusHydro over the past five years. Leopards Elbrus and Volna were released in the Alania National Park in 2018, Baksan and Agura began their independent life in the Turmon Natural Reserve in 2020. In 2022, as many as three animals were released: a male named Leo and twin sisters Hosta and Laura.

RusHydro and A. N.  Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences started the leopard recovery project in North Ossetia in 2016, when surveillance cameras accidentally filmed a wild leopard at a RusHydro HPP. Before that, these predators had not been encountered in the local mountains for many decades: in the 1920s leopards were exterminated in North Ossetia, and by the 1950s all over the North Caucasus.

The project is implemented as part of the federal program for leopard recovery in the Caucasus. The Leopard Recovery Center selected pure-blooded animals from different countries for breeding; they have now become the progenitors of a revived population. Their offspring undergo intensive training to live independently in the wild. They are trained to avoid humans, settlements and domestic livestock, and develop skills to hunt on their own.

Chelmas, who was born in July 2021 in Sochi to a pair of leopards brought from a Swedish zoo, had received similar training. His readiness for the life in a natural habitat was confirmed by a commission of experts from specialized organizations implementing a program to restore the population.

The Persian leopard, also known as the Caucasian leopard, historically found in the Caucasus, is the largest leopard subspecies in the world. Today it is included in the Russian Red Data Book and the IUCN Red List. The Persian leopard is one of the official symbols of the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi. It is also depicted on the coats of arms of the Republic of North Ossetia – Alania and the Republic of South Ossetia.

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