Critically endangered Amur leopards captured on video13/07/2011 17:22:12 Good signs but a huge way left to go for Amur leopards
July 2011. Recent video footage from a survey on a group of critically endangered Amur leopards in the Russian Far East has yielded unexpectedly positive results, giving evidence that some wild groups of the big cat are showing clear signs of a tendency towards population growth, says WWF Russia.
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 "Leopardoviy" Federal Wildlife Refuge in Russia's Primorsky Province, located between the Sea of Japan and the Chinese border.
"In the previous 5 years of camera-trapping, we were able to identify between 7 and 9 individual leopards in this monitoring plot every year. But this year, the survey was record-breaking: today 12 different leopards inhabit the territory," says Sergei Aramilev, Species Program Coordinator at WWF Russia's Amur Branch. "The results are pointing to a population increase of up to 50 per cent within the target group in Kedrovaya Pad and Leopardoviy," he adds, "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."
Fewer than 50 Amur leopards in the wild
Tiny fraction of habitat left
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.
New National Park
The new, larger reserve would merge the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve with the nearby Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge in Russia. The Hunchun Nature Reserve in China, also an important habitat for Amur leopards, is expected to be added at a later date to from a transboundary protected.
"Even the first steps towards establishing the "Land of Leopard" national park are having positive results. The fact that the number of Amur leopards has grown from 7 to 12 on the monitoring plot offers proof that creating one united trans-boundary protected area is the right idea," says Yury Darman, director of WWF Russia's Amur branch.
First use of video monitoring
"The digital cameras helped us capture longer image sequences for the survey, which gave us important insights into these very unique animals' lives," comments Sergei Aramilev. "What we've seen this year suggests that the leopard group being surveyed is experiencing a tendency towards population growth. We hope that next winter, after the monitoring is carried out across the entire range, this trend will be proven true," he continues.
A similar monitoring program is being run the Wildlife Conservation Society in plots to the north of Kedrovaya Pad, covering part of the federal Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge and the Nezhinskoye Hunting Estate. Integrated data obtained from both monitoring plots will be available in the coming months.
A mother looking after a grown-up cub in the forests of Far Eastern Russia. Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, Primorsky Province, Russia. - ©WWF Russia / ISUNR