An update on the three new cubs who have been born at the Lisbon Zoo with the support of the Mirpuri Foundation
Born as part of the Mirpuri Foundation partnership with the Sochi Center, at Lisbon Zoo, the cubs are currently 17 months old and continue to co-habitat the same space with their mother “Elin”. Similarly to what would occur in the wild, all three are still in their learning and socialization phase, reason why they are still kept in the same group. Father “Arash” is separated from the group at this moment in another space. Once the cubs reach the age when they would normally disperse to other habitats, they will be separated in order to mate with other females.
Thanks to the European Reproductive Program for the Persian Leopard Endangered Species (EEP), the animals will be under constant care and supervision. This program is globally coordinated by Engineer José Dias Pereira (from the Lisbon Zoo).
One year ago, the Mirpuri Foundation announced that three new cubs were born at the Lisbon Zoo.
The three young leopards were born at dawn on the 23rd May, and cameras in their living areas allowed zoo staff to follow the mother’s late pregnancy, as well as the early development of the young cubs. José Dias Ferreira, coordinator of the European breeding program for the Persian Leopard said the cubs are all in good health and have been enjoying exploring their new home, with their mother Elin.
One of the cubs was named Kiamaky, a name chosen by Paulo Mirpuri, the President of the Mirpuri Foundation. The newborn was named after a protected mountain area in Iran, where leopards once roamed in numbers, and to represent the importance of preserving habitats in order to preserve the species.
The other two cubs were named by the zoo after a public vote: Noah, pays homage to his namesake, (a leopard followed by a camera trap between 2004 and 2009 in the protected area of Vashlovani (Georgia). Noah, the first leopard to be followed by a camera trap in Georgia, played a fundamental role in fostering awareness amongst the local population and organisms connected to wildlife protection; The other was named Amir (Amirhossein-Khaleghi), the name of an Iranian Conservationist who has dedicated his life to conserving the species.
The Foundation has close links with the program after sponsoring a series of expeditions to the Caucasus, entitled “Through the Eyes of the Leopard”.
It is hoped the three male cubs will mate and help establish a healthy, genetically diverse, self-sustaining population, in a species that has suffered a significant decline in numbers over the last century and is classed as a highly endangered species by the IUCN.
The Persian Leopard is a leopard subspecies found in Turkey and the Caucasus, parts of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. It is named on the IUCN Red List as a highly endangered species with as few as 870 animals thought to exist in the wild.
A number of the rare big cats have been introduced to the region in recent years. In June and November 2018, young leopards were transferred back to the Alaniya National Park in North Ossetia, as well as the Caucasian State Nature Biosphere reserve, located on the southern and Northern slopes of the Western Caucasus, in the Russian Federation.
Armed conflicts and political instability in the region have hindered conservation work and increased risk to the species that live there. Fragmentation of their territory, trophy hunting and the illegal fur trade are just some of the some of the reasons that led to the rapid decline of the leopard population in the Caucasus. The project for the recovery of these animals began in 2005 and remains fully active.
Aurel Heidelberg, Caucasus Programme Officer for the WWF in Germany said “Today, more than 10 years after the start of conservation work we can say that we have been particularly successful. “In some areas where there was no evidence of leopards we know there are animals now living and cubs being born. The data proves that the conservation approach we are implementing in the area is working.”
The Mirpuri Foundation has previously funded, through its ‘Through the Eyes of the Leopard’ program three expeditions to photograph the Persian Leopard, its natural habitat in the Caucasus and the communities around.
In 2012, under an ongoing program, to reintroduce this species into the Caucasus, the first breeding pair of Persian Leopards originally from zoos, departed from Lisbon for Russia. Their offspring were re-introduced into the Caucasus Nature Reserve.
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