Leopard injured in poacher’s trap to join zoo breeding programme

Leopard injured in poacher’s trap to join zoo breeding programme

29 March 2016

Leo 80M, a male Far Eastern leopard found in June 2015 with an injured paw, will be moved to a Russian zoo to join a leopard breeding programme. This decision was made by experts after a medical and biological examination of the leopard.


The animal was found in Land of the Leopard National Park on the border with China by border guards, who later named the leopard Nikolai. His forepaw had been seriously injured in a poacher’s trap. After undergoing toe amputation surgery, the young leopard was moved to the Centre for the Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals (PRNCO “Tiger Center”).


Experts from Land of the Leopard and PRNCO “Tiger Center” did their best to help Leo 80M adapt to the life in the wild. He improved his hunting skills and learned to avoid people, but the medical examination showed that his injured paw might become a serious disadvantage for survival in the Primorye taiga. Experts believe that the thin skin on his injured toes could be easily damaged and become prone to infection. His paw might feel uncomfortable and even painful, and prevent the leopard from hunting successfully. Considering these risks, veterinarians decided to send Leo 80M to a Russian zoo. However, the leopard will not entertain visitors, but will live in a special spacious enclosure as a member of the zoo’s breeding programme.


“Nikolai will play an important role: he will bring new blood to the zoo population. He is very valuable for improving the genetic diversity of leopards in captivity, a reserve population of this rare subspecies,” said Yelena Shevtsova, deputy director for research at Land of the Leopard.


The rehabilitation of Leo 80M for life in the wild is the first, unprecedented experience of working with this subspecies, and all the new knowledge will be used in the rehabilitation of other leopards. Researchers received more clues to leopard habits in the wild after watching Leo 80M’s behaviour during his first time in captivity.