(LEOPARDS) CHINA — With only 7-12 estimated in China and only 20-25 believed to be living in Russia, the Amur leopard is one of the most rare and critically endangered species in the world. But researchers are reporting good news for the small population. Photographs taken last month by a camera trap in northern China, an area considered outside the normal home range of the Amur leopard, might suggest that the population is headed towards stability. Read on for the conservation efforts dedicated to one of the rarest species on the planet. — Global Animal
The Amur leopard is classified as critically endangered. Photo credit: scienceblogs.com


A wild Amur leopard has been photographed by a camera trap in northeast China last month, adding evidence to the possibility of population stability of the species.

The photos were taken in the afternoon on 19 September 2011 at one of WWF’s Amur tiger conservation pilot sites. The camera traps were set-up by WWF-China and the Jilin Forestry Department to document Amur leopards, tigers and their prey.

What makes this particular event important is that the leopard was found scores of kilometres away from the China-Russia border – far further than the believed maximum home range covered by an Amur leopard. Based on previous discoveries of Amur leopard tracks found by WWF-China in Wangqing, this further infers that the leopard caught on camera is likely to be from the area.

Dr Zhu Chunquan, Conservation Director of Biodiversity and Operations, WWF-China said that this was a positive step towards Amur leopard conservation in China.

“The total population of the wild Amur leopard is even more endangered than its more eminent cousin, the Amur tiger. The recovery of the population in northeast China is very critical for the sustainable survival of the entire Amur leopard population in the world,” said Dr Zhu.

One of the photos taken from the camera trap. This is one of only about a dozen critically endangered Amur leopards living in China. Another 20-25 are believed to live in Russia. Photo credit: Sun Ge / WWF / PKU

WWF-China is working closely with the Jilin Forestry Department to protect Amur tigers and leopards by conducting activities like anti-poaching, patrolling and monitoring, recovery of prey population, and promoting the establishment of nature reserves to the government. So far, progress has been made in the official drawing up of recovery plans; and Wangqing provincial nature reserve will be promoted to national level, thereby increasing the habitat area for both the Amur tiger and leopard.

The Amur leopard is a very rare and endangered species that is in extreme need of proper conservation efforts. Due to the rarity of the animal, special background survey or data of the Amur leopard has not been conducted in China. But according to data collected roughly ten years ago in the wildlife resource surveys in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, there’s an estimated 7-12 Amur leopards in China. Another 20-25 are believed to live in southern Russia.

In 2009, WWF-China established the pilot site in Wangqing for wild Amur tiger and leopard conservation. We have been working closely with the Jilin Forestry Department and Wangqing Forest Bureau in the pilot site to ensure tiger and leopard population recovery, and since then successes have been made in finding Amur leopard tracks, dung and hairs over the past few years during daily monitoring and winter surveys. Jilin Forestry Bureau and WWF-China are planning to conduct a background survey for the Amur leopard population in Jilin to acquire the basic data for conservation.

More WWF: wwf.panda.org