Extinction of Amur leopard

Oct. 6, 2022, 5:26 p.m.

Amur leopards, a subspecies of leopard found in the Russian Far East and northeastern China, are considered critically endangered mainly due to low population numbers and population fragmentation.

These incredible animals have adapted to the temperate forests of the Far East. Like African leopards, the Amur subspecies can run at speeds of up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) per hour and are nimble, solitary creatures. They’re distinguishable by their pale coat and dark, widely spaced rosettes with thick, unbroken rings.

The entire world population of the Amur leopard is about 40 - 50 individuals, the majority of these (around 30-40) live in Primorye region in Russia. The remaining species live in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang in China. In South Korea, the leopard was seen for the last time in 1969.

Habitat of the Amur leopard - the most Northern subspecies of leopard, stretches just north of the 45th parallel. Currently, the Amur leopard can only be found in Southwest Primorye (Russia).

The latest assessment estimated that less than 50 individuals are left in the wild with a decreasing trend.

Like other leopard subspecies, Amur leopards are threatened by poaching, persecution, habitat fragmentation, excessive harvesting for ceremonial use, prey source declines, and poorly managed trophy hunting.

Typical for the Amur leopard habitat is in coniferous and deciduous forests of Manchu type. These cats prefer areas with rugged, steep hills, rocky outcrops and watersheds.

This remarkably beautiful cat has an elegant, slim body, round head, long tail and slender, very strong legs.

The thick, beautiful coats that help Amur leopards survive the harsh climates of their range also attract poachers, as they can sell for prices between $500 and $1,000 in Russia. Even worse, their forested ranges often coincide with agriculture and villages, making them both more accessible to poaching and prone to competition with human hunters among their prey species.

Amur leopards are threatened by hunting not just directly for their own body parts, but also indirectly through the unregulated hunting of their prey species like deer and other ungulates.

Scattered throughout the body clearly defined black solid rings of spots or individual spots, give the skin of the Amur leopard special, unique coloring.

Eyes are yellow, pupil vertically oval, becoming round in the dark, claws dark chocolate with white ends, very mobile and retractable in a special "scabbard" not to get blunt from walking.

Amur leopards aren’t particularly picky—when larger game like deer, moose, and wild boar aren’t available, they will sometimes resort to hunting smaller mammals like rabbits, fowls, and mice, all of which represent important prey species and whose disrupted numbers can easily unbalance a thriving ecosystem.

At the height of records, the Amur leopard’s historic range reached 140 thousands square miles globally but decreased to 27 thousands square kilometers by the 1970s due in part to logging, forest fires, and land conversion for agriculture. Its current range is less than 4 thousands square miles in northeastern China and the Russian Far East, which constitutes less than 3% of its historical range.

Amur leopard leads mainly crepuscular lifestyle. Usually goes on the hunt for an hour or two before sunset and hunts the first half of the night, though sometimes hunts in the afternoon, especially on cloudy days and cold winter.

Leopard food consists mainly of ungulates: deer, young wild boar, spotted deer and red deer calves. In addition, the leopard eats hares, badgers, raccoon dogs, pheasants, grouse and a variety of insects.

Individual territories of the Amur leopard are small - about 5-8 thousand hectares, and the cats themselves are strictly territorial. Each adult animal has its own area, which does not cross with territories of other individuals of the same sex.

The extinction of this felid species will lead to the disastrous consequences for ecosystems.

What do you think should be done already today to ensure the survival of a unique felid species?

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