Amur leopard, also called Far western leopard or Siberian leopard, is one of the critically endangered species of cats. They are found over Southwestern Russia and northeast China. The good news is that due to the extensive conservative efforts the number of leopards has increased up to 103 in 2018 from less than 30 in 2000 according to the WWF. They are widely hunted for their beautiful spotted fur. Peculiar than other cats which are generally found in low lands and grasslands like Savannah, these rare species of cats are solitarily ruling on the snowy forest and mountains.
Habitat and characteristics:
Amur leopard live in the temperate region inside the dense forest. They usually hunt after sunset in solitary rather than on packs. Their major preference is deer which happens to be the preference of the people living around the forests hence leading them to a shortage of food contributing over their declining numbers. Amur leopards live for around 10-15 years and weigh 70-105 kg. Male leopards are 5-7 feet in length while female leopards are about 4-5 feet long. To adapt themselves to the harsh cold regions of Russia, they have paler, thick spotted coat of fur which grows up to 7 cm long in winter. Similar to other leopards, they can run about 37 miles per hour. Apparently, they can also jump up to the height of 19 meters horizontally and up to 10 feet vertically. Amur leopard breed in spring and summer months. They can reproduce up to 6 cubs at a time. The pregnancy lasts for 90- 105 days.
IUCN states the number of leopards is decreasing globally but this particular subspecies of leopards were decreasing at an unusual rate than others due to the man-made actions in their habitat region. Amur Leopard is widely hunted for their beautiful spotted fur. As mentioned above, their preys are the roe deer, sika deer, hare which are also hunted by the local people they are hence leading to the scarcity of prey in their region. The deer and hare are used to the locals to sell in the market. The locals are encroaching over the settlement of leopards destroying their habitats for agriculture and local development. They are also threatened by new roads, inbreeding, forest fires and possible co-existence with other disease carriers. Their habitat has decreased by more than 80% in last 30 years.
A vast number of efforts have been put by Russia, China, and other western agencies to protect the Amur leopard from extinct. An alliance called “Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance” is initiated by Russia along with other agencies to secure their future existence. In 2012, Russia announced Land of the Leopard national park to protect the habitat of Amur leopards. The anti-poaching team is working in the forest to secure the region from poaching. Various other projects like population monitoring, health checkup are also being done in order to ensure the existence of Amur leopard, the solitary hunters.