Feb. 4 - Russia President Vladimir Putin plays with a rare and endangered snow leopard in an animal reserve in Sochi - one of three Olympic mascots. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Russia President Vladimir Putin visited on Tuesday (February 4) an animal reserve for endangered snow leopards in Sochi, where he arrived ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics. Putin stroked the head of the endangered animal for a few minutes before pledging to act for its regeneration. The snow leopard is one of the three official mascots of the Olympics. The other two are a polar bear and a hare. Putin, who was largely responsible for Sochi's successful bid to host the 2014 Games, said at the time of choosing the mascots that a snow leopard would be his "symbolic choice." He came out of the enclosure thrilled by his brief encounter. "We liked each other, ask him ! I like animals," Putin said. "As you know and we talked about it a lot, leopards became extinct here in the 1950s because of poaching. And now in connection with the Olympic games we say we will be restoring the population," Putin said.