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BROCHURE RACK

Critically endangered Amur leopards captured on video

13/07/2011 17:22:12
world/Asia/Asia july 10/wwf_Amur_Leopard

An Amur leopard cub that's close to fully grown is caught on camera in Primorsky Province, Russia. Fewer than 50 Amur leopards now live in the wild. Primorsky Province, Russia. ©WWF Russia / ISUNR

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.

Cub
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.

"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
There are fewer than 50 Amur leopards remaining in the wild. To help understand how to better protect this rare animal, WWF Russia and the Institute of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources (ISUNR), a non-profit organization based in Vladivostok, and the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Science have carried out this regular survey for the past 6 years.

Tiny fraction of habitat left
The Amur leopard now inhabits only a fraction of its original range, which once extended throughout China's North-eastern 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.

New National Park
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 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
This is the first time WWF Russia and ISUNR have used video-enabled cameras to monitor the leopards living in and around the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve.

"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 

 

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Michael Rank

Amur leopard has also been caught on video on the Chinese side of the border, according to a Chinese online report, by a border patrol troop (not zoologists).

At 15.31 hrs on April 13, 2011 patrol leader Li Mingquan saw a light grey spotted cat (as it appeared, presumably poor light) through his video camera, took film of it on Chinese side of border at Wujiashan, Jilin province, wildlife protection experts in Hunchun confirmed it was an Amur leopard.

At 20.23 hrs on April 25 another patrol took video of Amur leopard hunting using infrared camera. It was found to be same individual as on 13th, also in Wujiashan area.
On same day at 20.16 hrs Wujiashan patrol leader He Zhijun spotted four roe deer feeding, four minutes later a leopard suddenly appeared in the camera lens and stalked the deer from behind a rock about 10 metres away. At 20.21 the leopard ran at the nearest deer, all four deer ran off, the leopard pursued them to a hilltop about 200 metres away, pounced and caught it by the neck, ran down the hill with the deer in its mouth, stopped in a hollow, bit the deer's neck and started to gnaw at the deer in a leisurely fashion. The other deer escaped.

According to patrol leader He, after he saw the leopard in his video lens other patrol members found red deer bones nearby, which judging by the bite/attack marks were also preyed on by leopard. All three sightings were near Jingxin Zhen (Zhen = township) in Wujiashan area and all involved same individual according to Hunchun tiger and leopard protection workers.

The report adds that 20 million yuan has been spent in the area on video equipment to monitor the border (for illegal immigrants etc) and implies that leopard sightings show what a good investment this is as a bonus.

I have uploaded a map showing location of Jingxin Zhen (and Xiao Wujiashan just to the north) which are in the panhandle of Chinese territory that juts out towards the sea, I have added Jingxin Zhen in roman which I hope you can see. I couldn't find them on digital maps but luckily I bought a map of Jilin province when I was there and found them on that. See www.flickr.com/photos/ibisbill/5800999430/

This is the url of the Chinese report topics.huanqiu.com/border/news/2011-04/1659696.html It's a website that focuses on border issues, not wildlife.

Posted by: Michael | 16 Jul 2011 20:04:31

As magnificent as rare but this are amazing breaking news!!!

Posted by: Mirko Macinai | 16 Jul 2011 00:39:10

Great stuff. This is an especially beautiful race of a beautiful species.

Posted by: John Harrison | 15 Jul 2011 20:15:50

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