Poacher-wounded Far Eastern leopard cub Leo 80M is getting used to living in a spacious new open-air enclosure. In the first three days since moving to his new home Leo 80M has caught a rabbit, and judging by images from camera traps seems to be in good shape.
In the first days since moving to the enclosure the cub caught at least one of seven rabbits that were placed in the enclosure. In fact, rabbit fur has been found in the leopard's excrement. Moving forward, experts from Land of the Leopard National Park and the Center for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Wild Animals expect to get images of the leopard hunting. Several camera traps have been placed in the enclosure to this end.
"The leopard is quite active in exploring his new home. He started by looking for a hole in the enclosure fencing in order to escape, although so far he doesn't seem to be intent on doing so. Seven rabbits will last him for about 10 days, after which we could consider placing a young deer in the enclosure. The animal is now isolated from humans to the maximum possible extent, with people appearing inside the enclosure once in several days at most," Viktor Kuzmenko, executive director of the rehabilitation centre, said.
Efforts to isolate the leopard from humans are primarily aimed at making sure the animal avoids them once it returns to the wild. This, along with an assessment of the leopard's hunting skills, will help researchers understand whether he can live in the wild or not.
"Images from the enclosure are similar to what we are receiving from camera traps in the wild. The animal is comfortable, relaxed and in good physical shape. We can see that the paw injury isn't affecting his movement, and we hope it won't cause any problems when the leopard goes hunting for big prey," Yelena Salmanova, deputy director for research at Land of the Leopard National Park, pointed out.
Leo 80M moved to the open-air enclosure on 3 July and is expected to spend at least two months there, during which time the experts will evaluate his hunting skills and decide whether he can be released into the wild.