The Far Eastern leopard cub Leo 80M, who is recovering from a paw injury, has been transferred to a spacious open-air enclosure, where he will be given rabbits as prey to make sure he is still able to hunt.
In mid-June, the cub underwent paw surgery and was placed in a special cage at the Center for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Wild Animals for three weeks. He made a speedy recovery and put on 12 kg. On Friday, 3 July, Leo 80M was moved to his new home — an enclosure next to the rehabilitation centre.
"We had to move him to an enclosure because he needs open space and fresh air. The closed box grew too small for the recovering leopard. Besides, he is a cub, so he wants to run around and frolic, and there was not enough room for that. We are convinced that his recovery will proceed much quicker out in the open," said Yelena Salmanova, deputy director for research at Land of the Leopard National Park.
To avoid distressing the animal during the transfer, he was put to sleep with a tranquiliser gun. Specialists took the sleeping cub out of the cage and thoroughly examined him. The examination showed that injured paw had healed and the cub's health had significantly improved. Leo 80M was then carefully moved to the 300-square-metre enclosure, where he will remain for at least two months.
"It is necessary to assess the leopard's hunting habits while he stays in the enclosure," Viktor Kuzmenko, executive director of the Center for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Wild Animals, explained. "We need to know if his damaged paw prevents him from hunting normally, climbing trees and just living in the wild. Depending on the results — whether he is able to hunt successfully and his reaction to humans is still natural — we will decide on sending him back into the wild."
Rabbits will be placed in the enclosure to allow the leopard to practice stalking and catching prey. Researchers will be monitoring Leo 80M using remote video cameras to see if he has any problems hunting.