Vladimir Putin — legitimate environmentalist

We know that the West doesn’t understand Vladimir Putin. So when members of the press corp began to snap photos of Russia’s president sitting with baby leopards, it is only a matter of time before more photo-shopped images with Vladimir Putin in the wild start making the Internet rounds.

Chair Jean-Claude Killy
Mr. Putin escorted IOC Commission Chair Jean-Claude Killy to the Persian Leopard Centre in Sochi.

That he sat down on a log and played with a Persian leopard wasn’t just about photo-opportunities, rather it was Vladimir Putin being Vladimir Putin. He loves animals. You can see it in his face and eyes and the same delight is visible as when he relaxes with Koni his favourite dog and with Buffy and Yume, the canines who pretty much enjoy free run of the presidential residence at Novo-Ogaryovo.

Already one news organization is reporting that the baby leopards attacked journalists who accompanied Mr. Putin and IOC Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Killy, so lets set the record straight: the leopards didn’t really attack journalists. The leopards are in the Sochi-based Persian leopard breeding and rehabilitation centre and they’re accustomed to being around the humans they meet every day. Even in such a setting leopards are naturally scared of strangers and there probably isn’t a stranger species on the planet outside journalists.

Sochi Persian leopard breeding rehab centre Putin and Dir Umar Semyonov.
This Persian leopard at the Sochi Breeding and Rehab Centre was nervous at first.

This Persian leopard at the Sochi Breeding and Rehab Centre was nervous at first but Centre director Umar Semyonov was there to calm the nervous animal and before long it was putty in Mr. Putin’s arms.

Sochi Persian leopard breeding rehab centre.
Getting acquainted: a Persian leopard and Mr. Putin at the Sochi Breeding Rehab Centre.

As news stories turn up the heat on the Russian attempt to curb the stray dog problem in Sochi there will be those who condemn the Russian president, as if perhaps he were responsible personally. Apparently in addition to handling Russia’s foreign policy, some feel that he should run in the next election for Sochi city dogcatcher. So it won’t matter that the trip wasn’t about Mr. Putin wrestling, shooting or riding a wild animal, the stereotypes will endure nonetheless.

There are times when he does lend himself to the stereotypes but what most in the West don’t understand is that Vladimir Putin is a true environmentalist. He isn’t the tree hugging twisted wacko Al Gore kind of environmentalist; rather Mr. Putin not only talks about nature and her creatures, but he is comfortable in and very importantly, he enjoys and craves opportunities to be a part of the natural world.

Being a part of nature is mere theory for many environmentalists but something very natural to Russia’s president.