Critically endangered Amur leopards captured on video

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An adult male bears his teeth in front of a camera trap in Far Eastern Russia's Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, Primorsky Province, Russia. ©WWF Russia/ISUNR

WWF has released video footage from a survey of the critically endangered Amur leopards in their southern range in the Russian Far East. The film shows strong signs that the big cat has increased in numbers in this area.

One scene captures a pair of leopards moving languidly through a small forest clearing, while a second shows a female leopard parenting a nearly grown-up cub.

“When the last full census was done during the winter of 2010, estimates were that fewer than 40 Amur leopards remained in the wild,” said Diane Walkington, Head of Species at WWF-UK. “Whilst this most recent survey in one part of their habitat certainly doesn’t prove growth of the whole population, it does demonstrate a positive trend.”

Although similar monitoring has been taking place for six years, this is the first time WWF Russia and the Institute of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources (ISUNR) have used video-enabled cameras to monitor the leopards living in and around the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve.

“The results are pointing to a population increase of up to 50 per cent within the target group,” says Sergei Aramilev, Species Program Coordinator at WWF Russia’s Amur Branch, “and I think we can attribute this to improvements in how our reserves are managed and the long-term efforts that have gone into leopard conservation.”

The recordings, which document a total of 12 leopards, reveal two different pairs of the rare spotted animals and one individual in the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and “Leopardovy” Federal Wildlife Refuge in Russia’s Primorsky Province, located between the Sea of Japan and the Chinese border.

The Amur leopard now inhabits only a fraction of its original range, which once extended throughout China’s Northeastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, and into the Korean Peninsula. In Russia, about 80 per cent of the species’ former range disappeared between 1970 and 1983.

Unsustainable logging, forest fires and land conversion for farming are the main causes. The Amur leopard – which is also know as the Far-Eastern leopard, Korean leopard and Manchurian leopard - has also been hit hard by poaching, mostly for its unique spotted fur.

In December 2010, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the government would take urgent measures to protect the critically endangered species, including the creation of a new national park – the “Land of Leopard”.

The new, larger reserve will merge the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve with the nearby Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge in Russia, as well as encompassing other important habitats. Work is also continuing to establish a transboundary protected area network with China, that would provide even more well-managed and connected habitat for the Amur leopard.

Video from the leopard survey is available at
http://gvn.panda.org/pages/view.php?ref=3168&k=88d8d75aaf

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