With less than a few dozen alive in the wild, the Amur leopard is one of the most endangered animals in the world, and its future is in grave danger.
As the World Wildlife Fund reports, the Amur leopard is solitary. Nimble-footed and strong, can run at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour, and has been reported to leap more than 19 feet horizontally and up to 10 feet vertically. This big cat has adapted to life in the temperate forests of Russia that make up the northern-most part of the species’ range.
The Amur leopard can live for up to 10-15 years, and in captivity up to 20 years, but human interference, especially relating to habitat loss, is largely to blame for the Amur’s endangerment. As Tendua points out, commercial logging is the primary culprit.
Ongoing development programs including gas pipeline plans, improved and expanding road networks, railway development, expansion of the electricity grid, and mineral/coal extraction are reducing and degrading available Far Eastern leopard habitat, reports Wildlife Conservation Society Russia.
In recent years, fires have become the greatest threat to leopard habitat. Fires rarely occur naturally in this part of Russia, which has high rainfall totals and lush forest vegetation, according to a joint study between Tigris Foundation, Tigis, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. However, annual human-caused fires are turning forests into grasslands and savannahs, which the leopards cannot thrive in. Between 1996 to 2003, 46% of potential leopard habitat in Russia burned at least once, and between 12 and 22% of this territory burned each year. Frequent fires like these slowly kill off existing trees, and prevent seedling trees from establishing themselves, destroying the habitat forever.
Aside from environmental threats, leopards are poached for their skins and bones as well, WCS reports. Hunters poach leopards to eliminate competition for deer and wild boar, and locals sometimes kill leopards in retaliation if leopards prey on domestic animals.
It’s sad that we’ve come to a place whereby financial gain is put above the future existence of these precious animals. The fact is, the Amur leopard may not exist much longer. IUCN’s 2000 Red List of Threatened Species classifies the subspecies as Critically Endangered, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has listed it on Appendix I.
In early 2021, Russian conservationists celebrated a rare sighting of an Amur leopard mother with three cubs in the Far East as proof of their efforts to boost the population of the endangered species. Some researchers have pointed out that the leopard’s cousin, the Amur tiger, recovered from a precarious state of fewer than 40 individuals in the 1940s, the WWF reports. It is believed that the Amur leopard can be saved from extinction if the present conservation initiatives are implemented, enhanced and sustained.
Click below and urge the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — an organization that works to save leopards and other animals around the world — to intervene immediately so as to halt the extinction of the Amur leopard.
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