ST. PETERSBURG, April 10 (RIA Novosti)
A 261,000-acre national park in Russia's Far East created to protect Amur leopards began operating this week, presidential chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said.
“Five days ago, on April 5, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a long-awaited order establishing the Land of the Leopard National Park. This is the first Russian national park created expressly to protect wildlife,” said Ivanov, who is chairman of the supervisory council of the Eurasian Center for Leopard Population Research, Preservation and Recovery.
Ivanov expressed optimism that the Amur leopard would avoid extinction. “Scientists do not think so and now we have everything to save it,” he said.
The Amur leopard population has steadily declined since the end of the 19th century and had reached a critical level. The main causes of the decline are “human activity, loss of habitat, illegal housing construction,” he said.
Establishment of the new park will give the leopard the required living space, he said, adding eight cubs have been born in the short time since the park's establishment.
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