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21.09.09 22:51
Turkmen Leopards to compete for role as Olympic symbol
Leopards from Ashgabat were released into the wild at the Sochi National Park. They are to form the basis for restoring the population of this rare cat in the Caucasus in accordance with the Program of Recovery of Persian leopard, which was developed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

On September 19, with the participation of Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of the International Olympic Committee Jean-Claude Killy and IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli, the leopards were transferred from cells to large cages at a special breeding and rehabilitation center of the Sochi National Park. Releasing animals into cages, the head of Russia's government and chairman of the IOC made a telephone call to President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and thanked the Turkmen leader "for a splendid gift."

According to the press service of the WWF, the two leopards are males. One of them has been named Alous after a Caucasian mountain, where the last leopard was killed, and the second has been named General after the name of General Valley in Turkmenistan, where the animals were caught. "They will have time to acclimatize, get used to and feel themselves masters of the territory by the time female leopard are brought Turkmenistan," Umar Semenov, Candidate of Biological Sciences, Deputy Director of the Sochi National Park said. The offspring of these animals will be released into the wild - in the Caucasus Reserve. Experts suggest that in 10-15 years the creation of the core population of northern leopard will be completed.

"Places for future release of leopards in the Caucasus Nature Reserve were selected to be as close as possible to the conditions of habitats of leopards in Turkmenistan," says Doctor of Biological Sciences, Specialist of WWF Programme on restoration of Persian leopard in the Caucasus, Professor Anatoly Kudaktin.

The project on restoration of the leopard population is included in the programme of preparation for the Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi, and, according to the media, Vladimir Putin praised the idea of making the leopard a symbol of the Olympic Games, referring back to the idea of the rebirth of nature in these places. According to Jean-Claude Killy, the animal, which is one of the most beautiful in the world, "will become a new symbol of the Olympic movement embodying the struggle for human health and preservation of wildlife." "We are very pleased that the Olympic movement plays an important role not only in the development of sport and human health, we are touched by this kind of its influence on nature," he said.

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