There are two major threats to the extinction of the Amur leopard.
Destruction of the Habitat of Amur Leopards
For survival Amur leopard needs forest, as well as animals in it.
Forests are being destroyed be people. Also forests get severely affected by fires. At least part of the fires is the handiwork of local residents. It is believed that the fire stimulates the growth of fern, which is being actively sold to China and is used in Chinese cuisine.
Sometimes the forests get burned when people cannot get permission for deforestation. Trees don’t get burned completely, their trunks remain, and they are used in farming.
Besides, animals, especially large hoofed animals for which the Amur leopard hunts have been steadily decreasing in their population. As a result, even the weight of today’s Amur leopard is much smaller the body mass of the leopards in the beginning of the 20th century.
Lack of sufficient food makes Amur leopards to move more, increases their hunger, which leads to the fact that they are becoming less secretive and more susceptible to traps and bullets of poachers.
In the Far East, hunting is part of the way of life.
In the Primorsky and Khabarovsk regions there are more than 60,000 registered hunters.
Animals are being killed by poor locals who are hoping to improve their financial situation.
The second group of people – rich hunters from large Russian cities, but they are not able to hunt without local guides. This leads us back to local residents.
A third group of poachers comes from China – they cross the Russian-Chinese border illegally. Apparently fortune seekers from the Chinese side also have a heightened financial appetite.
In addition, the risk for Chinese for poaching in Russiais lower: in China for killing a Far Eastern leopard you get the death penalty, and in Russia – only imprisonment (as of 2013) and a fine.
Furthermore, poachers can also illegally hunt for other animals that are food for the Amur leopard. That means that at some point a female leopard may not be able to get food for her cubs, because it has been already “stolen” by a hunter.
There were also other hypotheses about the endangerment of Amur leopard due to genetic defects that accumulate as a result of the reduction of their population, but they have not been proven.
Conservation of the Amur Leopard
The main difficulty in the conservation of rare and endangered species is drawing attention to the problem, and first of all – the attention of the state.
Work in this direction is not very easy. But once, the studio “Call of the Taiga” (with the support of WWFRussia) managed to make a movie “Those who challenged” (2007). The point of this film was not only the fact it managed to film Amur leopards, although it is definitely a unique case. After all, the studio had other films about leopards before and after 2007.
The authors of the movie together with environmentalists were able to show the movie to one of the high-ranking Russian officials. This movie has played a key role in creating a unified protected area for leopards.
Veterinary Center for large Animals
To solve the problemof diseasesof Far Eastern leopards and their treatment, a special Veterinary center equipped with unique medical and research equipment was opened in Primorye.
In nature there is natural selection, but with such a small population of leopards, even life and reproductive ability of just one leopard can tip the balance of the endangerment of species in one direction or another.
In addition, the center is also involved with the problems of another representative of big cats, which is also endangered, the Amur tiger.
Changes in Legislation
Poachers and smugglers who are involved in the destruction of this rare animal species (including storage, transportation or sale of animal fur) as of 2013 are held criminally responsible for their actions. There was already a precedent when a smuggler was convicted for possession and an attempted sale of the tiger fur.
Leopard does not like fire and fires, and with other animals leaves such territories and ends up in the territories of other predatory animals, which can lead to conflicts.
Therefore, it is extremely important to stop the fires to make sure that leopards stay in their areas, and more importantly, to avoid the risk of leopards dying in a fire. To achieve this, special teams were organized to monitor the situation and extinguishfires.
The Fight Against Poachers
Gamekeeper brigades were organized that patrol the area of habitat of the Amur tiger. Apart from directly reducing the threats to the animal, there is also a psychological point: local residents, aware of the constant monitoring of the territory, are unlikely to harm leopards.
In addition, local residents who get involved in the protection of rare animal species in the Far East, receive economic support, which means that they no longer need, by fair means or foul, to make a living.
The fight goes on for literally every single leopard. One female leopard got settled near a reindeer farm, and began regularly hunting … on the farm. The owner was determined to cut his losses and get rid of her. Scientists caught the animal and put a collar on it to track its movements, and they offered to the owner of the farm to name the female leopard after his daughter. The conflict was resolved.
For almost a decade the population of leopard was at 30 individuals. Counting leopards in 2013 showed that their population has increased to 45-50 individuals. This is a very encouraging fact.
Today, thanks to the concerted efforts of many organizations and individuals, the population of the Amur leopard has stabilized, but still remains very low, and we should not for a moment stop working on the conservation of this unique cat species from extinction.