The Korkeasaari Zoo of Finland is holding up a special event dedicated to help to save the endangered Amur Leopards, and from each purchased price of the tickets, they will donate 1€ (euro) to the Amur Leopard conservation program.
Please do what I did to help to save these wonderful cats: donate. I literally had to beg for my parents to allow me to donate for this, but I feel this matter is very important. Below is some information about the Amur Leopards.
With a total population of 30-35 individuals, the Amur leopard, or Far Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), is one of the most - if not the most - endangered large cats on earth.
Of all the cats in the world the leopard has the widest distribution. Leopards were originally found in almost the whole of Africa and in large parts of Asia, ranging from Turkey and the Middle East to Indonesia and Russia. At one time there were thought to be over thirty distinct subspecies of leopard, but most cat specialists now believe that the majority of these subspecies are not valid; eight have been proposed instead (Miththapala and Seidensticker 1995), and revision of the taxonomy is still under debate.
Of the eight subspecies the Amur, or Far Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) shows the strongest divergence in coat pattern. The coat is pale cream (especially in winter) and has widely spaced rosettes with thick, black rings and darkened centres. The length of the coat varies between 2.5cm in summer and 7.5cm in winter.
Male Amur leopards weigh 32-48 kg, with exceptionally large males up to 60-75 kg. Females are smaller than the males at 25-43 kg.
The main prey species of the Amur leopard are roe and sika deer, along with hares and badgers.
Whilst it has been found in other regions that leopards do not do well in areas where they share territory with tigers, this has not proved to be the case in Russia. Studies have indicated that an increased tiger population in the Southwest Primorye area has not adversely affected the leopard population.
Amur leopards in zoos show some evidence of breeding seasonalilty with a peak in births in late spring/early summer. After a gestation period of around 12 weeks cubs are born in litters of 1-4 individuals, with an average litter size of just over 2. The cubs will stay with their mother for up to two years before becoming fully independent. Females first breed at an age of 3-4 years.
In the wild, leopards live for 10-15 years and they may reach 20 years in captivity.
The Amur leopard is listed as Endangered by the IUCN and is on CITES Appendix I for protection status.
Field survey data indicate that there are fewer than 45 leopards left in the wild, making the Amur leopard one of the world's most endangered cat taxa. There are approximately 300 Amur leopards in captivity, mostly in zoos in Europe, North America and countries of the former Soviet Union. Most, but not all, of these leopards are in zoos participating in managed conservation breeding programmes.
Research efforts to-date
Russian scientists have studied the Amur leopard since the early 1970s. The first reliable population estimate based on snow track counts was made in Russia in the winter of 1972-1973 by Dimitri Pikunov and Vladimir Abramov.
Russians also studied aspects of leopard ecology by following tracks in the snow, collecting information such as prey selection and territory size. D.G. Pikunov and V.G. Korkisko published a monograph summarizing this work in 1990.
WCS studied a total of 5 radio-collared leopards between 1994 and 1996, primarily in Kedrovaya Pad, a small reserve in SW Primorye.
WCS, WWF and Russian scientists carried out 7 snow track counts in SW Primorye between 1996 and 2007, resulting in population estimates varying between 22 and 50 leopards.
Genetic research confirmed that Amur leopards are a separate subspecies and indicated that the wild population is highly inbred. (Olga Uphyrkina, Insitute of Biology and Soils conducted these analyses at the genetic laboratory at the U.S. National Institute of Health, under direction of Dr. Stephen O’Brien)
A GIS laboratory (TIGIS), developed at the Pacific Institute of Geography (Russian Academy of Sciences), with support from WCS, has used the extensive array of surveys to develop maps and extensive GIS data-bases concerning:
a. Leopard numbers and distribution
b. Present and historic vegetation in the leopard range
c. Assessment of habitat use and human impacts on distribution of
d. The impact of fires on leopard habitat and leopard distribution
2002 to date: WCS, the Institute of Biology and Soils, and the Institute for Sustainable Use of Natural Resources (ISUNR) have carried out leopard counts with use of camera-traps in a large, central part of the Amur leopard range in SW Primorye. In 2006 WWF and ISUNR started camera-trap work in adjacent areas to the south. The population in SW Primorye is currently estimated at 30-35 individuals based on a combination of snow track and camera-trap counts.
In 2004 ALTA partner Tigris Foundation conducted base-line social research into the opinions and attitudes of local villagers in the leopard range towards leopards and their conservation. A second survey was conducted in 2006/7 and revealed substantial improvements in the attitude and knowledge of this target group.
2006 to date: WCS began a research project on leopard ecology in order to provide information needed to guide conservation planning and potential establishment of a second leopard population. This project is ongoing.
2006 to date: ZSL starts the Amur Leopard Wildlife Health Project in collaboration with WCS Russia, Moscow Zoo and the Primorskaya State Agricultural Academy in Ussuriysk. The project includes a survey of the disease prevalence in wild Amur leopards, their prey, livestock and (feral) pets in Primorski Krai. A veterinary diagnostic laboratory will be established and training will be provided for the next generation of Russian wildlife health professionals.
November 2007: ALTA members, WWF Russia, Zov Taigi, ISUNR and representatives of the local Institute of Biology and Soils of the Russian Academy of Science hold a first meeting to begin development of an Amur leopard reintroduction strategy, to be submitted for approval by the Russian government.
Conservation implementation to-date
1992: US citizen Steve Galster visits Primorski Krai to document illegal wildlife trade. He initiates the establishment of Inspection Tiger, a government anti-poaching brigade for the protection of the Amur tiger. He establishes the Siberian Tiger Support Coalition (STSC), an alliance of western NGOs, to provide financial support for Inspection Tiger teams. Inspection Tiger focused on the main Amur tiger population in the Sikhote Alin range; initially no team was active in the Amur leopard range in SW Primorye.
1996: USAID, WCS and WWF organize the first international Amur leopard conference (resulting in the outlines of a conservation strategy)
1998: Steve Galster establishes the Vladivostok-based NGO Phoenix Fund to implement STSC education and anti-poaching projects. Presently Phoenix has a five-member full-time staff.
1998: STSC partner Tigris Foundation initiates and finances a 4 member anti-poaching team that operates exclusively in leopard range. This is the first Amur leopard conservation project financed by a western NGO. The team has become one of the most successful in this part of Russia and is active to date.
1998: A Russian federal strategy for Amur leopard Conservation is produced (but not officially adopted by the federal government).
1998-2002: Tigris Foundation and Phoenix Fund start a number of new Amur leopard conservation projects in SW Primorye, including fire-fighting, compensation of livestock kills, and education projects. STSC evolves into ALTA (Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance) in order to reflect the growing involvement in Amur leopard conservation. Funds for Amur leopards come primarily from European zoos in the Amur leopard breeding programme and this support continues to the present day.
2001: a second international Amur leopard conference in Vladivostok organized by WCS and Phoenix, results in a conservation strategy and a consensus among experts that re-introduction of leopards from zoo stocks is desirable.
December 2001: the Chinese government creates Hunchun Tiger Leopard Reserve, based on recommendations from WCS staff; WCS and Tigris begin support, training, compensation programs for livestock depredations by wild felids, and implementation of monitoring programs for the reserve.
2004: WCS includes Neshinoe Hunting lease (which includes key leopard habitat) as one of its model leases to improve conditions for prey and leopards outside protected areas in SW Primorye
2005-2006: ALTA partners ZSL and Phoenix Fund lead a successful international campaign against a plan to build an oil terminal and refinery plant in the Amur leopard’s range.
The main threats to the survival of the Amur leopard are:
- Poaching of leopards and their prey species
Loss of forest habitat due to frequent fires
Negative impacts of inbreeding
Lack of political commitment to conservation
Logging is done selectively in the Amur leopard's range and habitat loss due to logging does not form a serious direct threat. However, the creation of logging roads increases access and disturbance, and leads to increased poaching and fire frequency.
Loss of genetic diversity in the small and isolated Amur leopard population may cause inbreeding depression (reduced numbers due to reduced reproduction and lifespan and increased vulnerability to diseases). However, additional information on the level of inbreeding and its effects, if any, is needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Southwest Primorye is located close to the Russian borders with China and North Korea, making it an attractive area for infrastructure projects such as new railways, gas and oil pipelines and ports. In 2005 and 2006 ZSL and its local partner Phoenix Fund led a successful international campaign against a plan to build an oil pipeline terminal on the coast of the Sea of Japan in the leopard’s range.
Status in the wild
The Amur leopard is the northernmost of all leopard subspecies. Its historic range extended throughout northeastern ("Manchurian") China, the southern part of Primorsky Krai in Russia and the Korean Peninsula. This range shrank dramatically during the 20th century, due primarily to habitat loss and hunting. For instance, between 1934 and 1965, 39 skins were officially registered in Russia, which represents a significantly higher number of animals actually killed.
At the turn of the 20th century the leopard was still found throughout much of southern Primorsky Krai. The first reliable estimate of leopard numbers in Russia was made by Dmitry Pikunov and Vladimir Abramov in the winter of 1972-1973. By this time, the population in Primorye had already contracted from one contiguous to three isolated populations. In the southern Sikhote-Alin Mountains, leopards were most common along the coastal regions, but there were only an estimated eight to 10 animals remaining. In the west, near the Chinese border and southwest of Lake Khanka, there were five to six animals that moved back and forth between Russia and China. The third population, in southwestern Primorye, was estimated at 25 to 30 animals. Therefore, by 1973, there were an estimated 38 to 46 Amur leopards remaining in Russia, many of which depended upon habitat on both sides of the Russian-Chinese border. A 1985 survey suggested that leopards had disappeared from the area southwest of Lake Khanka and from southern Sikhote-Alin. The leopard population in southwest Primorye remained approximately the same as the 1972 survey, 25 to 30 animals. A more recent count in the 1990-1991 winter revealed the population size in southwest Primorye to be stable at 30 to 36 animals, if migrants to and from China were included.
Since 2002 WCS has organized camera-trapping surveys to estimate the population of Amur leopards in a substantial, central part of their range in SW Primorye. Camera-trapping has proved highly effective, and from 2002-2007 a total of 375 photographs of leopards were made. Based on the camera-trapping results and the most recent snow track counts, the population is currently estimated to be stable at 25-35 individuals.
There are probably up to 10 animals scattered throughout the Chinese Jilin and Heilongjiang Provinces, with the majority of animals concentrated near the Russian border.
A male leopard caught in the south part of South Korea in 1962 died in a zoo in Seoul in 1967 without having produced offsprings in captivity. The Amur leopard probably went extinct in the wild in South Korea in the late 1960s, although some recent, unconfirmed reports suggest that a few leopards may remain in and around the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. There are likely still leopards in the rugged northern region of North Korea near the Chinese border, and it is also likely that animals from Southwest Primorye in Russia occasionally cross the border into North Korea, but reliable information is lacking.