You may remember the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Like all Olympic Games it was overly expensive (in this case partly due to mass corruption) and the organisers struggled to justify the expenditure but promised a legacy of some sort or other. With respect to Sochi’s Olympic legacy, Putin praised the work of a Persian leopard breeding centre near Sochi and said that “the restoration of a lost animal species is part of Sochi’s Olympic legacy”.
The idea was to release Persian leopards bred at the centre into the wild in a nearby wildlife reserve which was due to be enlarged. What is actually happening is that a new road is being built within the reserve (which is meant to be a protected zone) as part of an expansion of a skiing resort (Roza Khutor resort) and the enlargement has been abandoned.
In short what is happening is that the promises made about the winter game’s legacy for wildlife conservation were hollow words designed to sell the games to the International Olympic Committee.
The head of World Wildlife Fund – Russia, Igor Chestin said that:
“If these plans for resort expansion go ahead than the leopard reintroduction programme will become completely pointless.”
He’s calling for a boycott of international sporting competitions at the Roza Khutor and Laura’s ski venues where Olympic events were held until the plans are reversed.
As for the Persian leopard there are fewer than 1000 remaining on the planet and most of them live in central Asia and Iran. They are a leopard subspecies. It is believed that there are no more than 15 in Russia. The breeding programme was initiated by the World Wildlife Fund in association with the Russian Academy of Sciences and other partners about 10 years ago. There were plans for two leopards to be released into the wild in the spring and to establish a viable population of about a 100 to 150 animals.