Leopards die after rescue from deposed leader's zoo

Two rare snow leopards which belonged to Kyrgyzstan's ousted president have died from starvation, it has been revealed.

The endangered cats, among an array of rare animals found in Kurmanbek Bakiyev's secret private zoo after he was forced to flee the country, perished after not being fed for almost a month. Authorities are now trying to find homes for the other zoo animals.

Mr Bakiyev was ousted after riots in early April left over 80 dead, and a new provisional government took over. Kyrgyz special forces later found the private zoo at Mr Bakiyev's family compound near Jalalabad in the south of the country.

But, for unclear reasons, it took nearly a month before they were transferred to a wildlife protection centre in the town of Karakol, a four-hour drive away. There are no public zoos in Kyrgyzstan.

"It's difficult to say how they were fed before the events in April, but in the last month they have gone hungry," said Saltanat Seitova, from the Karakol sanctuary. "The herbivores were fine, but the carnivores suffered. Of the three snow leopards kept there, two of them died."

In addition to the snow leopards, authorities found baby bears, wolves, peacocks, swans, an African ostrich, and several rare birds of prey. The ostrich is also reported to have perished. Local media reported that many of the animals were listed on international endangered species lists.

Ms Seitova said that many of the animals were in poor condition and the centre appealed for help with feeding them. "One wolf needs two or three kilograms of meat per day. We'll be very happy if there are people who want to help," she said.

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