Russia: Fate of "pet" leopard uncertain amid Moscow demolitions
Cleopatra has become the latest victim of a housing dispute in Moscow where residents are fighting to save their riverside houses.
Published: January 29, 2010 14:28h
A pet leopard named Cleopatra has become the latest victim of a bitter housing dispute in Moscow where residents are fighting to save their riverside houses from demolition.
The leopard, which lives in a cage at a housing development in northwest Moscow, faces eviction and confiscation as its owner’s house is due to be demolished by city authorities.
The big cat’s plight prompted Russia’s natural resources ministry to declare on Friday that the leopard, which grew up in captivity, should be removed from its owner and given to a zoo or rehabilitation centre.
– The Natural Resources Ministry expresses its concern at the fate of the leopard. The only answer is for the animal to be moved to a zoo or rehabilitation centre for adult specimens – the ministry said in a statement.
If the leopard proves to be a Far Eastern leopard, an endangered species native to Russia, it will be taken to a special centre in the southern Russian city of Sochi, the ministry said.
Moscow authorities over the past week have been demolishing houses in the Rechnik development, sparking a standoff with residents that has been widely publicized in the Russian media.
City officials say the development was built illegally on parkland and that they are evicting residents on the basis of a court order.
The residents — who include rich Russians with mansions as well as elderly people with modest houses dating back decades — say they had no idea the development was built illegally.
The owner of the leopard, businessman Sergei Bobyshev, said he has little hope of holding on to his pet.
– If they take away my Cleopatra, she will die. Once I left her for a week with my friends. All that time she didn’t eat anything and waited for my return – he told the RIA-Novosti news agency on Friday.
– Not only do they want to knock down my house, they want to take away my animal, my friend – he complained.
Bobyshev, who is a member of the Rechnik residents’ association which is fighting the evictions, told Echo of Moscow radio that he bought the leopard four years ago at a market and had all the necessary permits to keep it.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org