14:37 GMT +3 hours22 November 2014
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Putin calls for animal conservation in Russia

Environment
(updated 18:26 28.10.2014)
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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called on Thursday for the conservation of endangered polar bears, Caucasian and Far Eastern leopards.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called on Thursday for the conservation of endangered polar bears, Caucasian and Far Eastern leopards.

"You know that many animals facing extinction are included in the Red Book. Among them are Amur tigers; there are only about 500 left - this is a crucial stage," Putin said during an annual televised question-and-answer session with Russians, adding "Far Eastern leopards are in even worse conditions."

He said the polar bear and the Caucasian leopard are also among animals facing extinction.

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) demanded in September the United States impose a moratorium on the hunting of polar bears. The U.S. still allows polar bear hunting for indigenous peoples in Alaska even though polar bears have been listed as an endangered species since 2008.

The organization is seeking to save the polar bear population which inhabits Alaska and the neighboring Russian Chukotka Peninsula. Polar bear hunting has been banned in Russia since 1956.

"Look at the emblems of the North Caucasus republics - the Caucasian leopard is pictured on almost each of them," Putin said. "But [Caucasian] leopards themselves are almost extinct; they were destroyed in the 1950s. There's nothing left."

The prime minister said Russian wildlife experts are trying to revive the population of Caucasian leopards, adding some were sent to Russia from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan.

Putin is taking active part in programs to study and preserve endangered animals, including the Amur tiger and the white whale.

MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti)