Amur Leopards: fun facts, conservation and protection
Can you guess how many Amur Leopards there are estimated to be in the wild?
It's 100, according to the WWF. They've been listed as critically endangered since 1996, with most found in Russia and some in China. 70% of their home range lies in protected areas. As such, they're considered one of the rarest big cats in the world!
Today, we'll fill you in on amur leopards and what made them endangered - not to mention, how we can save them together!
- Like giraffes, their spots are similar to unique fingerprints and can be used for individual identification!
- During summer, their fur is around 2.5cm long, whereas, in winter, that extends out to almost 3 times at 7cm!
- Amur leopards are elusive because of their nocturnal and solitary characteristics. As such, we use infrared camera traps capable of night and low visibility photography!
- They can climb! Their print is exceedingly brilliant at camouflage, and so they can sometimes only be noticed from when their tail twitches!
- You may remember that giraffes have papillae on their tongues to help protect their lips from thorns. Amur leopards also have this to help scrape the meat off their prey.
- Amur leopard cubs are born blind, weighing just half a kilo, and generally have, at least, one sibling, but no more than four in one litter. The gestation period lasts around 12 weeks. Since they're so vulnerable, the mother keeps them hidden for about 6-8 weeks.
- The Amur leopard was first documented in Korea by a German zoologist, Hermann Schlegel in 1857. As such, Amur Leopards are also sometimes called the Korean Leopard, despite being predominantly found in Russia and China.
- The 10th longest river in the world is the Amur River, flowing into the Eastern Russian sea and forming part of the Chinese border. Since these leopards are found to inhabit both areas north of south of the river, they were named after it!
- These leopards evolved to withstand the colder temperatures: their legs are longer than other leopard species, with larger feet. Both make them well equipped for snowy terrains, from walking to prowling to hunting!
- They're quite territorial. One Amur leopard will need the equivalent of 55,000 football fields (75,000 acres or 120 square miles) to roam, so as a species they need a lot of wild terrain for healthy living.
What Endangers Amur Leopards?
Poaching & Illegal Hunting
Amur leopards are largely poached for their beautiful fur, particularly by local villagers. The Amur leopard is poached largely for its beautiful, spotted fur. Forests are relatively accessible because agriculture and villages surround the area that leopards inhabit.
This poaching also damages the ecosystem because the leopard's important prey, the roe and sika deers as well as hares are all hunted by villagers for food and cash.
Residents may set fire to forests when they can't get permission for deforestation. Since the trees don't burn completely because their trunks remain, it's used for farming. The result is that the forest is very much accessible now, and the leopards lose more of their habitat. This is the same when residents in China set up fires near or in forests to support the growth of fern, which is believed to be stimulated by fire. It's an active ingredient in Chinese cuisine, so naturally, they'd be after more of it. Still, the result is the same: damage to the leopard habitat.
How Are Amur Leopards Protected?
One good thing to note is that both China and Russia have made land suitable for leopard habitats. Russia's largest patch can host 120 leopards, whilst the largest Chinese patch could be home to over 70!
Poachers for Prison
Russian poachers could be fined over 1 million (1,100,000) rubles and two years worth of jail time for killing an Amur leopard. Meanwhile, storing, transporting/selling them or their parts carries a similar punishment: a fine of 1 million rubles and two years jail time.
Committing the act as an organised group crime can result in a fine double that and, for killing an Amur leopard: a jail time of almost triple.
Want To Save the Amur Leopards?
Bare Kind donates 10% of its profits to the World Conservation Society, founded in 1896! We donate to the WCS Russia Program, where Bare Kind's donations will aid habitat management, population monitoring and ambitious anti-poaching programmes!