By Giorgi Lomsadze
Russian approval of sanctions against Iran may have chilled relations between the two countries, but there is still enough room left for diplomacy to swing a cat. Iran plans to send a pair of Caucasus leopards to Russia to help efforts to repopulate the big cats in the Caucasus area.
Hunting and poaching have brought the Caucasus leopard to the brink of extinction; environmentalists rejoice at every occasional sighting of the animal in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Some claim that the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh has also got in the way of the leopards’ migration routes.
The Iranian gift will be placed in the Russian city of Sochi's zoo. Russia plans to start dispersing the cats on the northern flanks of the Caucasus ridge, hoping that the leopards will spread throughout the Caucasus area. Russia, in turn, is helping Iran restore the population of tigers in its northern province of Mazandaran.