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New hope for thirty remaining Amur leopards

Recently, the Russian Prime Minister signed a decree creating a new nature sanctuary for the endangered Amur leopards.

The new protected nature area will join two small protected areas into one, called Leopardovy Zakaznik (Leopard nature sanctuary), and will be managed by the Ministry of Nature Resources of Russia. According to the decree, the ministry will also manage the bordering Kedrovaya Pad strict nature reserve.

Before the decree, the three protected areas had all been managed by different state agencies, which sometimes created confusion. The transition of all three areas under supervision of one ministry (and the merger of two of them) will help implement a single leopard conservation strategy on the whole protected area without wasting time on coordinating activities of different agencies.

WWF proposed this change as early as 1999, in its Strategy for conservation of the Amur leopard in Russia. To ensure the protection of the Amur leopard, WWF created anti-poaching groups in the region. WWF also cooperates with China to create a trans-border system of protected areas for the leopard and save its habitat from industrial pollution. Environmental education activities in the region raise local awareness of problems facing their rare cat species. Special education programs for custom officers help reduce illegal export of leopard parts to China. In 2007, WWF built a visitor’s center for the future protected area, which now will finally be given to the nature sanctuary.

The Amur leopard – also known as the Far-Eastern Manchurian or Korean leopard – is the rare northernmost leopard subspecies, and the only one in the world adapted to survive the long harsh winters of the Russian Far East. With only about 30 animals left, it is now facing extinction. Threats to the dwindling leopard population include habitat loss from forest fires, timber cutting, construction and industrial development, the increase of unregulated tourism, and poaching.

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Amur Leopard

WWF's work in the Amur-Heilong