BISHKEK - Investigators in ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan said on Tuesday they had seized a private zoo owned by ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, home to several endangered species including rare snow leopards.
The animals, uncovered in a police raid on a home owned by Bakiyev outside the southern city of Jalalabad, include not only the pair of Tien Shan snow leopards, but also bear cubs, an African ostrich and four Indian ducks.
"The inspection was conducted as part of criminal investigations brought against close relatives and friends of former president of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiyev," a spokesman for the General Prosecutor's office told AFP.
The raid, which was carried out on a Bakiyev-owned home in the rural village of Tash-Bulak on April 25, uncovered the rare collection of animals, which also counted golden eagles, falcons and peacocks among its rare breeds.
Bakiyev, who was ousted amid violent protests against widespread corruption and rising utility prices in the Central Asian state earlier this month, has been granted sanctuary by strongman Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.
While the zoo might have been unique for Kyrgyzstan, one of the most impoverished states to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bakiyev is hardly the only regional leader with a taste for exotic pets.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman president of nearby Russia's war-wracked southern republic of Chechnya, is said to have a private zoo populated by leopards and panthers on one of his compounds.
The prosecutor's office said it was still considering how best to ensure the care and safety of the animals.