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Rosa Khutor toSupport WWF Project, Aimed atReintroducing the Persian Leopard inthe Northern Caucasus.

WWF-Russia and Rosa Khutor launched aproject, supported bythe Russian Ministry ofNature Resources and Russian Federal Natural Resource Oversight Agency (Rosprirodnadzor), aimed atreintroducing the Persian leopard inthe Northern Caucasus. The project will become the first WWF-Russia conservation project that ismostly sponsored byRussian businesses, asitissponsored not only byRosa Khutor, but also byRussian mobile operator Vympelcom (Beeline).

The Persian leopard, Panthera pardus tulliana, once inhabited almost all ofthe Caucasus. However, the population declined drastically inlate 19th early 20th centuries. Only afew leopards now inhabit the most remote places ofthe Russian Caucasus. The number ofleopards here istoo small for the species toreproduce itself; only occasional visits ofthe Persian leopards from bordering countries help tomaintain the population. Therefore, natural restoration ofthe leopard here isimpossible; only reintroduction can help return the species tothe Northern Caucasus.

On May 24, the first stone ofthe pens will belaid inSochi National Park. Animals from several zoos will betransported tothe pens. The baby leopards born inthe pens will become the founders ofthe new population.

The goals wehave set are challenging and the stakes are high, but weare glad that our idea ofreintroducing the leopard inthe Russian Caucasus has received support for the first time, not only moral, but financial support aswell, from the Russian business, says Igor Chestin, WWF-Russian CEO.

We were attracted bythe uniqueness ofthis project, said Nina Zagorulko, director general ofRosa Khutor. Previously, there were nosuch projects for reintroduction ofthe vanishing species inthe world practice. And welike the idea tolead not only inbusiness orsports. Besides, the presence ofleopards isbelieved tobeasign ofahealthy regions ecosystem. And this isvery important for the development ofecotourism. All this complies with the concept, adopted byRosa Khutor, she added.