- Date: February 23, 2015
In an amazing tale of recovery, Amur leopard populations have more than doubled in just seven years. New census data reveals Amur leopards in Russia’s Land of the Leopard National Park now number at least 57 cats (up from just 30 cats in 2007). And an additional 8-12 leopards were counted in adjacent areas of China.
For the census, camera traps were spread out over more than 900,000 acres of leopard habitat. Scientists then reviewed 10,000 images and identified nearly 60 individual animals, judging by the distinctive pattern of spots on the leopards’ fur. The census was carried out by the Land of the Leopard National Park jointly with the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, with the support of The Amur Leopard Center and WWF-Russia.
Established in 2012, Land of the Leopard National Park includes all of the Amur leopard’s known breeding areas and about 60 percent of the critically endangered cat’s remaining habitat. "The national park became the main organizational force for leopard protection and research,” said Yury Darman, head of WWF Russia Amur Branch and a member of the Supervisory Board of The Amur Leopards Center.
Saving the world’s rarest cat
Conservationists are also working towards monitoring leopard populations across the border in neighboring Chinese nature reserves. One of the highly anticipated next steps would be the establishment of a Sino-Russian transboundary nature reserve.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done in order to secure a safe future for the Amur leopard, but these numbers demonstrate that things are moving in the right direction,” said Dr. Barney Long, Director of Species Conservation for WWF-US.
The dramatic good news for Amur leopards comes on the heels of WWF’s release of the first footage of a family of Amur tigers inside China. Both animals share the same habitat.