Amur Leopard Teeters on the Brink of Extinction

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Amur, or Manchurian, Leopard, Panthera pardus orientalis.

Image: National Geographic.

According to a new census by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Russian Academy of Science, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, it is estimated that only 25 to 34 wild Amur leopards remain alive -- at least 66 fewer than are needed to ensure survival. Also known as the Far Eastern or Manchurian leopard, the Amur leopard has been victimized by habitat fragmentation and hunting, conservationists said recently.

"We've known for some time that Amur leopard numbers were low," said Darron Collins, managing director of WWF's program for the Amur-Heilong region, speaking from Washington DC. "But this collaborative census demonstrates precisely how dangerously low the numbers are and how dire the overall situation is."

The leopard's tracks in the snow were the basis of the census, which covered some 1,930 square miles (5,000 square kilometers) of Amur territory near Vladivostok, Russia.

Weighing between 55 to 130 pounds (25 to 59 kilograms), the big cat once flourished along the Korean Peninsula, throughout the Russian Far East, and in northeastern China. The Amur leopard's long legs and long fur allow it to prowl in deep snow and to withstand Siberian cold, and physically distinguishes it from other leopards.

During the census, researchers discovered at least four leopard litters, which they called "a sign the population has some hope for regeneration," according to a statement. But experts point out that a minumum of one hundred individuals are needed to ensure the cat's long-term survival, so they are calling on China, Russia, and North Korea to cooperate in an effort to save the big cat.

Cited story.

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By steppen wolf (not verified) on 22 Apr 2007 #permalink

I think they showed one of these on the BBC/Discovery documentary "Planet Earth."

By Maltodextrin (not verified) on 22 Apr 2007 #permalink