Endangered Animal Species: Part-8, Amur Leopard

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Endangered Animal Species: Part-8, Amur Leopard

Amur leopard is classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, meaning it is considered an extremely high-risk species of extinction in the wild. In 2007, it was estimated that there were only 19-26 wild leopards left in southeastern Russia and northeastern China, making it one of the rarest felines in the world.

Its common name derives from the Amur River; other common names for this subspecies are Far Eastern leopard and Siberian leopard. As of 2015, fewer than 60 individuals are estimated to survive in the wild in Russia and China.

Camera trap surveys conducted between 2014 and 2015 revealed 92 individuals in an 8,398 km2 cross-border area along the Russian-Chinese border. In 2019, the population was reported to have risen to around 90 individuals. It remains a critically endangered species even though its numbers appear to be slowly recovering.

The Amur leopard differs from other leopard subspecies by its thick light cream colored fur, particularly thick during the winter months, an adaptation to the harsh and freezing climate of the taiga. The rosette spots on the flanks are 5cm × 5cm (2.0in × 2.0in) and widely spaced, up to 2.5cm (0.98in), with thick, unbroken rings and dark centers.

Endangered Animal Species: Part-8, Amur Leopard

Today, in the Russian Far East, the Amur leopard habitat covers an area of ​​approximately 7,000 km2 (2,700 square miles). The animal is well adapted to the cold and snowy climate of the region, and several specimens often cross the borders between Russia, China and North Korea via the Tumen River despite the presence of a tall and long barbed wire fence that marks the boundary between these states.

The Amur leopard is threatened by poaching, which affects both leopards and its prey, habitat destruction, deforestation or exploitation of the forests in which it lives. Its natural habitat is threatened by forest fires and the construction of new roads.

Due to the small number of Amur leopards that reproduce in the wild, the gene pool of this subspecies is so small that the population is at risk of inbreeding depression. In 2015, a wild Amur leopard was found positive for canine distemper virus in Primorskii Krai.

The small wild population is likely exposed to carriers and transmitters of domestic or wild disease. Tigers can easily kill leopards if large prey is in short supply. The competition between these two large predators decreases in the summer when, in addition to the large ungulates, they can also feed on small prey.

In winter the conditions are less favorable for tigers and the extension of the trophic niche overlaps that of the leopards, probably reaching its apex.