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Environmentalists have shared photos of at least two snow leopards that were captured on film in Uzbekistan.

The images are the first photographic evidence of the endangered cats' presence in that Central Asian country, on the western edge of their known habitat.

The Panthera and WWF conservation groups said in a statement the leopards were caught on cameras placed in the Hissar Nature Reserve in late 2013.

They are "expert at navigating the steep and rocky alpine regions of Central Asia...reconizable by [their] long tail and almost-white coat, spotted with large black rosettes," according to WWF Global.

They are increasingly victims of habitat loss and hunting, according to wildlife experts.

Panthera and WWF said:

In November and December of 2013, a team of rangers and biologists led by Bakhtiyor Aromov and Yelizaveta Protas, in collaboration with global wild cat conservation organization, Panthera, and WWF Central Asia Program, conducted a snow leopard camera trap study in the Kizilsu area of Gissar Nature Reserve, on the border of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Images taken through the study have confirmed the presence of at least two individual snow leopards in the region, along with other large predators – lynx and bear – and an abundance of prey animals, including ibex, wild boar, and hare.

Images taken through the study confirmed the presence of other predators and a number of prey animals, including ibex, wild boars, and hares, Panthera said.

The statements said the confirmed presence of snow leopards in the westernmost part of the species’ range and the availability of prey "provides hope for the survival" of the snow leopard.

An estimated 3,500-7,000 of the species remain in 12 countries across Asia.

The Hissar Nature Reserve abuts the western part of the Pamir Mountains.

Snow leopards are a prized target for poachers, who can sell their pelts for more than $1,000.

WWF and Panthera said in their statement:

Alexandr Grigoryants, Executive Director of the State Biocontrol Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan, commented, “The State Biocontrol Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan is particularly focused on the protection and increasing the numbers of rare and endangered fauna in Uzbekistan. Thanks to the hard work of the reserve employees, and with the active help of state protection officers and international conservation organizations, such as WWF, UNDP, Panthera and others, the population numbers of endangered animals in Uzbekistan will increase.”

-- Antoine Blua
The late Venezuelan president was often seen singing and strumming a guitar.
MINSK -- Music lovers in Belarus will soon be treated to a show honoring the life of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

The Belarusian Music Theater has announced it is working on a Spanish-language musical in collaboration with Venezuelan artists.

"In Memory of Hugo Chavez" is scheduled to premiere this summer in Minsk and later in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

The Minsk-Novosti news agency reported that the music would be composed by Gerardo Estrada, the first secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy in Belarus and a seasoned musician.

Olga Gudazhnikava, a spokeswoman for the theater, told RFE/RL that the musical's director was currently unavailable for comment.

The news from Minsk will come as no surprise to those who have witnessed Chavez's own musical antics and knew of his friendship with Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Chavez (left) enjoyed a good relationship with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Chavez (left) enjoyed a good relationship with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka

The "comandante," who died from cancer last year aged 58 after a 14-year tenure as Venezuelan president, was regularly seen crooning and playing the guitar.

One of his favorite repertoires was Venezuelan traditional music, which he regularly performed at political rallies, during his weekly television show, or even on stage, as during this 2006 performance at a Caracas theater.

In March 2012, one day after undergoing surgery to remove a second tumor, he sang along with musicians and danced with his daughter in a carefully orchestrated show intended to ease concerns about his health ahead of presidential elections.

Chavez was also known for breaking into song in the middle of his trademark marathon speeches.

In 2009, after addressing the United Nations for an entire hour, he sang a verse from the song "Meeting with Angels" by Cuban revolutionary singer Silvio Rodriguez, exhorting the world to be "a little bit better, and a little less selfish."

He also improvised a tune about his thorny relationship with then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a speech in June 2012.

"I'm not much loved by Hillary Clinton," he sang, "and I don't love her either."

Chavez's fierce anti-American rhetoric and melodramatic style earned him the admiration of the iron-fisted Lukashenka, who referred to the Latin American leader as his brother and invited him to the former Soviet country on five occasions.

The two countries have retained close ties since Chavez's death, with Belarus helping Venezuela develop its vast oil and natural-gas fields.

A park in Minsk was named after him last week.

-- Claire Bigg, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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