May 3rd is International Leopard Day, a day to celebrate leopards and promote global awareness about their conservation.
Common Name: Amur Leopard
Latin Name: Panthera pardus orientalis
Location: The Primorye region of southeastern Russia and northern China.
Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
The Amur leopard is considered one of the rarest cats in the world. In 2007 only around 30 leopards were estimated to still be living in the wild, isolated in a small 1000 square mile pocket of land. A camera trapping survey in 2018 showed that in Russia there were 91 adult leopard and 22 kittens. A small number also live in China and North Korea.
This leopard can easily be differentiated from other leopard subspecies by its thick, pale cream colored fur, especially in winter. Big paws help them maneuver in the snow, along with longer legs and nearly three inch long winter coats. Their tails are also larger than normal to help with balance.
Amur Leopards usually hunt at dawn and dusk. They rely on hunting mostly on sika and roe deer, and one carcass can feed an adult for most of the week. Food is often stored on rocky ledges for later use.
Amur leopards are on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss, loss of prey, and poaching. The good news? An oil pipeline planned through their remaining habitat has been rerouted. New protections in China have expanded their potential territory, and efforts are underway to restore and protect additional habitat.
Due to their small population size, these leopard are highly susceptible to an increase in deleterious mutations, genetic traits that can increase an individual’s chances of developing certain diseases or disorders, due to inbreeding. But hope still remains. There are some 200 Amur leopards in zoo populations, and this population is carefully managed to maximize genetic diversity which will help the animals thrive if and when they are reintroduced into the wild.
Lasovsky State Nature Reserve in Russia is large enough to sustain big cat populations, and the reserve is a strong candidate for a future reintroduction program. Researchers plan to use camera traps to photograph predator and prey species in the reserve to help determine the viability of Amur leopard reintroduction.
⦁ Experts say that pound for pound, leopards are the strongest of all cats. An Amur leopard can lift a 150-pound deer in its jaws to a branch 15 feet in the air.
⦁ The range of their hearing is twice that of a human’s, and in dim light its sight is six times better.
⦁ They can run 37 mph for short periods of time, and can leap 20 feet horizontally and 10 feet vertically.
⦁ Some researchers have said if a leopard was as large as a lion, it would be 10 times more dangerous.