Russia's Putin asks Iran for rare leopards
The country wants to revive the leopard population before the 2014 Olympics.
Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 12:18 PM
VANISHING ACT: Persian leopards disappeared from southern Russia during the 1920s because of excessive hunting. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
MOSCOW - Russia has asked Iran to help it revive a rare population of Persian leopards near the Black Sea resort slated to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Caucasian or Persian leopards disappeared from the Caucasus mountains around the resort of Sochi in southern Russia in the 1920s because of excessive hunting.
As part of an effort to restore the population ahead of the games, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin received two wild male leopards as a gift from Turkmenistan last year and said he was hoping to receive more from Iran.
"We have made additional arrangements with our Iranian colleagues and are hoping to receive several specimens from there in order to complete this project in the North Caucasus," Putin told members of the International Olympic Committee.
Putin released the two Turkmen male leopards into the wild last year. But obtaining female leopards, needed to restore the population, has proven much harder.
"The search for females in both Turkmenistan and Iran continues," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. Persian leopards live in the border areas of the two countries.
Russia has recently hardened its position on sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, but Peskov said sanctions will not be an obstacle to receiving wild cats from Iran.
"No sanctions in the world can be applied to such a good deed as restoration of a population of rare animals in a place where it had been lost," Peskov said.