Status: Critically Endangered
Known as: Amur Leopard, Manchurian Leopard, Far Eastern Leopard, Korean Leopard.
Estimated numbers left in the wild: 19 to 26.
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Description of Amur Leopard
The Amur leopard is superficially similar to other leopards, but has some traits unique to the subspecies, too. A male Amur leopard is 107 to 136 centimetres long. Weight varies by sex – females weigh 25 to 43 kilograms, with males slightly heavier at 32 to 48 kilograms.
Exceptional individuals can range as high as 75 kilograms. This leopard subspecies has exceptionally thick, luxuriant fur that can be as much as 7 centimetres long in winter. Its rosettes are strongly marked and widely spaced, and its colour is pale is winter, reddish in summer. The leopard’s legs are also longer than other leopards’, an adaptation to a snowy habitat.
The Amur leopard is dependent on Sika deer and roe deer for its main food supply, though it will take other animals as opportunity permits, including wild boar, moose, badgers, hares, Manchurian wapiti, game birds, and even mice.
The leopard is a solitary hunter that ventures out under cover of darkness, though males and females apparently pair up and cooperate during breeding season, possibly raising their cubs together before taking their separate ways again.
Prey is carried off and cached to keep it safe from competitors. This cold-adapted leopard lives for a decade to a decade and a half in the wild, and remains fertile to the end of its life.
Today, wild Amur leopards are confined to a fragmentary range in the Primorye region of Russia, just north of North Korea, and the adjacent Jilin Province of China. The status of the animal in North Korea is unknown. Amur leopards live in river basins in mountainous areas, and favour southern-facing slopes during the winter.
Conservation of Amur Leopard
The Amur leopard is threatened by its own genetics as well as the activities of humans, who poach these great cats and disturb or fragment their habitat. The subspecies is so limited in numbers that inbreeding is a serious threat that could result in the animals’ extinction even without additional human interference. Dwindling survival of young Amur leopards may be due to several generations of inbreeding.
Humans are contributing strongly to the endangered status of these leopards also. The leopards may attack deer in deer parks, leading to the owners of these establishments shooting them. The cats are also poached for their magnificent hides. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are affecting the subspecies’ chances for survival, as is competition for prey animals from hunters.
The World Wildlife Fund and other conservation organizations have been working with the Russian government and with local programs to attempt preservation of this intriguing leopard subspecies.
Lobbying has successfully stopped pipeline plans and mining plans which would have destroyed leopard habitat. Reintroduction is also a possibility, supported by a captive population considerably larger than the current wild population. Efforts are also underway to bolster the numbers of critical prey species.
Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance
Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA) consist of 14 international and Russian non-governmental organisations who work to conserve Amur Leopards and reintroduce them to the wild.
Wildlife Conservation Society
Wildlife Conservation Society was formed in 1895 with the aim of protecting 25 percent of the world’s biodiversity by promoting the importance of protecting wildlife and their habitats. WCS has five zoos in New York.