‘Ordinary guy’ Putin meets snow leopard

‘Ordinary guy’ Putin meets snow leopard
(AFP) – 6 hours ago

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stood metres away from a snow leopard in his latest stunt involving a threatened animal but insisted Monday he was just an “ordinary guy” in touch with Russia’s problems.

Putin knelt metres away from the snow leopard, kept in a wire-mesh enclosure, as the mythical animal warily eyed the man who has dominated Russia for the last decade in Siberia, state television pictures showed.

The close encounter with the creature — one of the mascots for the 2014 Sochi Olympics championed by Putin — helped further burnish his tough-guy image ahead of 2012 presidential elections.

“What a beautiful little cat,” Putin, dressed in a Russian hat and a quilted jacket marked with the Russian eagle and the initials V.V. Putin, whispered as he stared at the snow leopard.

There had been controversy over the fate of the snow leopard, a 10-year-old named Mongol, which the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund said had been languishing in captivity since its capture on March 14 by scientists in a neighbouring area.

The animal was then taken by helicopter to Khakasia in southern Siberia and the WWF on Thursday issued a statement calling for the animal to be urgently returned to the wild.

Mongol was finally released at the weekend just after Putin’s visit but the WWF said it would not be giving further comment on the issue for the moment.

In an interview with Russian state television, Putin said that Russia’s protection of endangered species like the snow leopard was symbolic of how the country had changed over the last years.

“That one of the symbols of the Olympics is a beast that was wiped out by man in the 1950s shows that Russia is different. Russia cares about nature, about its riches and preserves them for future generations.”

Putin has now over the last years met the full range of Russia’s rarest big beasts, ranging from bears and tigers in the Far East and a polar bear in the Far North.

But in the interview, Putin said he had lived simply almost all his life “with the exception of the last 10 years”.

“I lived like a normal ordinary guy and I will keep this link all my life,” he added. “Whenever I take a decision, I think about how this will impact the ordinary citizen,” he added.

Copyright © 2011 AFP.

The first snow leopard was successfully photographed in Tuva, Russia

RIA Novosti, translated by Heda Jindrak
March 12, 2010

permanent link: http://en.tuvaonline.ru/2010/03/12/5400_snowleopard.html

The participants in the first Russian-Mongolian expedition for the study of groupings of irbis (snow leopard), which took place from February 20 to March 7 on the Tsagan-Shibetu ridge (western Tuva), made the first photos of this rare predator in the republic, as announced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of Russia.

During the field research the members of the expedition, which included specialists from the “Uvsu-Nur depression” nature reserve (Russia), from the administration of especially protected natural territories of the Ubsu-Nuur lake basin (Mongolia), and from the Institute of Biology of Mongolian Academy of Sciences, searched practically the entire Russian part of the Tsagan-Shibetu ridge, discovered 14 tracks of snow leopard and collected fecal specimens of irbis for clarification of their numbers by DNA analysis.

The scientists successfully tracked some irbises and discovered areas of active range of the predators. The members of the expedition also discovered a family group of three irbises, apparently a female with two older kittens; they also were successful in photographing the animals for the first time in Tuva.

“In the future, it is planned to set up photo-traps in these locations, to study the spatial structure of the groupings of this species on Tsagan-Shibetu,” the report notes. After preliminary evaluation of these new data, the population of snow leopard on the Russian part of the ridge is estimated at 8-9 individuals. The scientists hope to get a more accurate picture of the numbers of sex-age composition of the population after DNA analysis of the predators’ fecal samples at the IPEE RAN laboratory.

As a result of DNA analysis of biomaterials collected on the Mongolian part of the ridge Tsagan-Shibetu in 2009, the numbers of the population of this species on this territory is estimated at 9 individuals. In this way, the total numbers of the trans-border population in this center of distribution is no fewer than 17-20 individuals. In April 2010, the work on the study of trans-border groupings of irbis on Tsagan-Shibetu will be continued on Mongolian territory. The obtained data will allow not just to estimate the condition of this group, but also to offer soundly-based suggestions for its protection. The development of eco-tourism in the irbis ranges based on reports by local people in Western Tuva with support of WWF should have a positive impact on the protection and development of the population of this predator. The action is planned to start already in May of this year.

The snow leopard, or irbis, lives in the mountainous heights of the Himalayas, Hindukush, Pamir, Tian-Shan, Altai and Western Sayans, Greater Caucasus and adjacent mountains. In the summer the animals prefer not to descent below the border where trees begin to grow, and live in the high rocky regions and mountain meadows, ascending all the way to six thousand meters. In winter the snow leopard find shelter in the forests located at the elevation of two thousand meters above sea level.

Illegal but lucrative hunting for snow leopard furs has substantially reduced the population. A snow leopard skin can bring in about sixty thousand dollars on the black markets of Asia. Snow leopard is under government protection in all the countries of its range, but poaching threatens its numbers just like before. Lately the number of the snow leopard has increased somewhat, and currently there are about six thousand individuals in existence.

© 2001-2010, “Tuva-Online” News & Information Agency (www.tuvaonline.ru).
Republishing, redistributing or syndicating without direct reference to Tuva-Online is prohibited.