With only 45 left in the wild the Amur Leopard is severely threatened. This beautiful large cat makes its home on the woodland border of China and Russia in a range smaller than Dorset.
They are relatively small leopards with thick, soft coats that range from pale yellow to rusty, orange-copper with black spots or rings.
Why Are They Endangered?
Their coats are, in fact, one of the problems we face when trying to preserve their numbers, as their furs are highly prized. Illegal hunting by unlicensed farmers is one of the largest threats to their survival. In addition, the local farmers use fires as a method of killing off pests, scrap metal picking and to burn up weeds and crop remnants to fertilise fields with the ash. Unfortunately this has presented risks to the habitats of the leopards.
There is another problem; when a species is present in low numbers inbreeding is a concern. A lack of genetic diversity in breeding groups can lead to something called “inbreeding depression”. This means that, when a species breeds within a small gene pool for too long, there is an increased likelihood of inherited diseases and physical deformities which will make it even harder for species to survive.
Their prey has also been declining in numbers. Amur Tigers (as the name suggests) share the habitats of the leopards and, being larger, they take the lion’s share of the hunting grounds, making it harder for the leopards to find enough food to survive when it is scarce.
What Is Being Done?
Efforts have been made to reverse the decline, with conservation groups working to increase the numbers of deer and wild boar in the forests by vaccinating the boar against diseases and leaving out food in the harsh winters. They’ve also been educating locals in conservation, as well as how to maintain the food chain and the ecosystem.
In fact, as a result of these efforts there has actually been an increase in Amur Leopard numbers from 2007 to 2013. An added bonus is that any efforts made to improve hunting and habitats for the Amur Leopard directly affect the preservation of the Amur Tiger, so two endangered animals are helped in one fell swoop!
When it comes to finding a charity to support in aid of Amur Leopards there are plenty to choose from. WWF are one of the bigger charities lending a hand as part of their worldwide conservation efforts, while smaller (but no less worthy) operations like ALTA, WCS and AMUR are all joining the fight for this little leopard’s survival.