Nikolai (Leo 80M)© RIA Novosti. Yevgeny Odinokov
21 June 2016

Leo 80M settles into new home and prepares to meet his mate

The spotted passenger has been successfully transferred by plane from Vladivostok to Moscow and is now staying at the Moscow Zoo's Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction. The wild-born animal arrived with an important task: to participate in a breeding programme of Far Eastern leopards in captivity.

"The leopard feels quite good and handled the move well. We hope that his offspring will be healthy and that there will be more Far Eastern leopards in the world," said Alexander Perfilyev, chief zoologist at the Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction and deputy general director of the Moscow Zoo.

 

© RIA Novosti. Yevgeny Odinokov

Leopardess Akra

 

Leo 80M, named Nikolai by the border guards who saved him from a poacher's trap, is preparing to meet his potential mate, Akra. The spotted predators will be introduced after the breeding programme curators approve the female candidate. Nikolai is extremely important for improving the genetic diversity of leopards in captivity as he is the first member of the subspecies to be officially moved to a zoo from the wild in the past 60 years. Experts believe that adding a wild leopard to the programme will bring in new blood and have a positive effect on the group. The animals kept in captivity are a reserve population of the world's rarest wild cat.

The Moscow Zoo nursery is a private area where the only people animals see are zoo specialists. Leo 80M is already settling into his new environment. "Nikolai lives in an open-air enclosure where he will undergo rehabilitation and adaptation. Later, we will build a bigger enclosure for him," said Svetlana Akulova, acting general director of the Moscow Zoo.

Far Eastern leopards have lived at the reproduction centre for 20 years and are accustomed to the capital's climate. The first rare wild cats were brought to the centre in 1998. Since 2005, the animals have bred regularly. Nine cubs have been born over these years. Most of them were sent to zoos all over the world. Currently, Nikolai has seven fellow leopards at the centre, five males and two females.

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