Alexa’s adventures in the forest: the ups and downs of a leopardess’ life© Land of the Leopard press service
09 June 2016

Alexa’s adventures in the forest: the ups and downs of a leopardess’ life

By Tatyana Baranovskaya, director of Land of the Leopard National Park

The image of a young and beautiful female leopard was first captured by a trail camera in 2013 in the Black Mountains, the heart of Land of the Leopard National Park, not far from the Chinese border. Experts assessed her as three-year-old and gave her the code name Leo 27F.

 

© Land of the Leopard press service

She received the sonorous name of Alexa a year later from Khasan District school students, who had won an environmentalist contest.

The young leopardess enjoyed her safe and sated life in a protected national park, and often postured before trail cameras. Zoologists think she demonstrated her agile and elegant form deliberately.

The idyll came to an end when, prey to proverbial feline curiosity, the spotted beauty left the park for untrodden paths. Animals are never aware of state borders, and Alexa was no exception. She had no idea what drama awaited her in China.

She was caught in a metal loop, a cruel invention of Chinese poachers. It dooms victims to slow death as every agonised movement draws the wire tighter round the animal's neck or body.

Miraculously, Alexa returned to Russia. Trail camera footage made in late 2014 shows a mangled, tortured creature ensnared in merciless wire. Experts know that a wire-trapped animal has no chance because they cannot come to rescue in time.

But miracles do happen. Last year was unique proof of it. First, Russian border guards rescued young Leo 80M, who lost three toes on his front right paw in a similar metal loop. A bit later, experts' hearts missed a beat when they checked trail camera footage: They saw Alexa alive and even fit. They literally couldn't believe their eyes and cross-checked the pictures by computer several times.

 

© Land of the Leopard press service

No one can say how she came to be so lucky. Possibly, the loop was made of substandard metal and broke as she struggled. Or Alexa untangled the deadly wire on her own and so is the model of feline courage and dexterity. Or, again, someone else might have freed her. What happened next allows us to make romantic conjectures on her narrow escape.

The footage of 23 January 2016 was a sensation. It showed Alexa her old handsome self, glossy and fluffy, stalking confidently belly-deep snow, followed by two endearing, cuddly cubs. The unknown poacher's wire not merely failed to kill the leopardess but did not deprive her of motherhood. That was why romantic zoologists think a brave and resourceful male freed the lady in distress and won her heart. That is how legends are born.

Be that as it may, Alexa's story has a happy ending. Judging by her cubs' and her own nourished and content appearance, she is a fine hunter.

 

© Land of the Leopard press service

We hope she has learned a lesson from her odyssey and will teach her cubs not to wander far away from home — Land of the Leopard National Park — at least before our Chinese neighbours put an end to poaching.

Best wishes to you, Alexa! We look forward to your new delightful footage.

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