Of all the large cats, the Amur leopard is the rarest, the most elusive in the world and the one in greatest danger. Its name comes from the Amur River, a place near where they live. Day by day they escape death, struggling to survive with the help of organizations and groups of people, and you can be part of them. This is their story.
You’ve probably heard about their cousins in the African savannas, they are lone hunters. When they kill their prey, they climb with it to the trees to protect it from their competitors: lions, hyenas and wild dogs. Unlike their cousins, the Amur leopards have adapted to the cold weathers that surrounds them. Here, the male, in some occasions, stays with his partner to help raise the cub. These leopards live from 10 to 15 years, they jump 6 meters horizontally and 3 upwards and hunt at speeds of up to 60 km per hour, They are impressive beings.
But now, their condition is of critical danger. Spotting them becomes increasingly difficult, as well as dangerous. Many who try wait for hours, even days sitting in a cabin with nothing but holes for the cameras and a bed in the hope of being able to look at them. Few are successful, most fail and that is because of the threats that torment the feline, which have forced them to avoid humans as much as possible.
They escape hunters, taking refuge in the depths of their forests while watching from afar how people consume their habitat, their trees and their natural prey. Little by little they see more farms and more cattle which, if they try to hunt, they risk being shot dead.
And this is it, this is the place, in the distant forests of the far east of Russia and northeast of China, where the world’s most elusive feline still breathes. The remaining 110 are hidden and protected in the last refuge they have, the Land of the Leopard National Park. Its here, within its 650,000 hectares, where stories of characters are born who play key roles in the survival of one of the 8 subspecies of leopards, the Amur leopard, one of the 20 species in critical danger of extinction.
The National Park is home of two of the most representative and important leopards of the territory, Kedrovka on one side and Lord on the other. They were spotted thanks to the cameras installed within the territory. Kedrovka is seen active, caring and feeding her 3 cubs: Killy, Crimea and Barry. It’s good news, the 4 seem to be in good health and such a large family is key for the survival of the subspecies. That is why Kedrovka is so famous, known for her numerous litters and her meticulous care.
But the park rangers have been looking for Lord for a while, and haven’t been able to find him. The last time he was seen was months ago; and in that moment they saw him, his footprints and something worrisome, human footprints that followed Lord. Shortly, the situation became more delicate, shots were recently heard inside the Park so an operation was enabled to catch poachers; but it was an unsuccessful operation. And to make matters worse, in the following days, the police arrested a species trafficker at the border of the country, with the skin of an Amur leopard. The worst was thought, park rangers were convinced that Lord had died. But in the following days investigations and collations of the skin patterns were made, it was determined that it was not Lord who died, it was an Amur leopard that they had not seen. It was a sad and terrible news to know that one of the remaining 80 leopards was murdered, one that represented hope that the population was recovering. The only consolation would come a few months later, when Lord was found in the recordings. He was seen strong as always and apparently behind 3 females: Pamela, Nerussa and Leo. Lord is famous for that, for taking one for the team in order to save his species.
With this short story of two Amur leopards you can understand a little bit more about their day to day life, the constant escape of death at the hands of humans.
The biggest step for its survival occurred in 2012, when after 10 years of efforts, pressures, lobbying and discussions of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) with the local government, the Land of the Leopard National Park was created in Russia. And it is within this territory, the last refuge of this subspecies, where there are those who still try to stalk them, hunt them and kill them for their skin and their body parts (fangs, bones, genitals).
Fortunately, just as there are those who want to kill them, there are also those who fight for their survival, some have even died before seeing their dream of a Leopard National Park fulfilled. There are people and groups that fight to protect the leopard and other species such as the Siberian or Amur tigers (also in danger of extinction). You can be one of them, below we tell you how you can help. But it’s important first to find out and understand certain reasons that have placed the Amur leopard in critical danger of extinction.
We recommend you to watch this series of documentaries about park rangers and the protection of felines in the Leopard Land National Park, Russia.
interview land of the leopard national park
WHY ARE THEY IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION?
Threats to this cat are shared with thousands of other species and we explain them in a general way in this article. But in the specific case of the Amur leopard, the most significant are:
Their skin can be worth thousands of dollars in the black market. In addition, along with other felines such as tigers, they are hunted because of a high demand in Asian, European, and American countries for their body parts (fangs, their genitals, bones) for “medicinal” preparations.
Deforestation is a direct impact of livestock and its own food source (soy, grass). This is how it works: thousands of trees are cut down to create spaces for cattle to graze. Additionally, thousands more trees are cut down for crops and production of other food for cows, chickens and pigs. This means that greater consumption of meat generates a demand to deforest even bigger areas for more livestock. On top of all this, habitat destruction causes reductions in the population of prey of the Amur Leopard, which additionally, gives life to a confrontation between humans and leopards, where the felines are poisoned and killed when they hunt cattle.
Species such as Sika deer, small wild boars, hares, badgers and raccoons are the main source of nutrition for the leopard, but have been greatly reduced by the destruction of their habitat and hunting. Today, the amount of prey in certain places is insufficient to sustain a high population of leopards.
The only way to see a significant recovery in the number of Amur leopards is by increasing their prey. To achieve this it is essential to stop poaching of prey, as well as a reduction in the cutting of trees. According to the WWF, the survival of the Amur leopard is of great importance for ecological, economic and cultural issues. In addition, the conservation of their habitat benefits other species such as the Amur tiger (population +300, also known as Siberian tigers) and prey such as deer.
Apart from facing all the great dangers mentioned above, the situation of the Amur leopard is more delicate due to inbreeding. This means that there is a lack of genetic variation in the +80 leopards that still live in natural state. The result is that they are more likely to develop diseases, health problems and increased risk of infertility which makes their survival even more difficult.
Maybe you don’t hunt, you don’t live in Russia or China, you don’t cut down trees and you’re not a farmer, but still your habits may be jeopardizing the life of the Amur leopard. If we manage to make some changes in our habits, the result would have a positive environmental impact on the world’s species and also on you, on your own survival.
HOW CAN YOU HELP THE AMUR LEOPARD
You can help this cat, and many other species, in several ways. Many activities in your life can finally change the critical state of the Amur leopard, but maybe you don’t know them yet. Look here for a complete list of what else we can do for endangered animals. In this case, you can help them:
The purchase and demand of products made with Amur leopard skins and fur generates poaching and brings them closer to extinction. If you buy any type of clothing made with skins then you are encouraging hunting and sentencing many species to their death and disappearance from Earth. If you have any such garment in your closet, then you are complicit in having taken a life. The reduction of its demand requires actions of people and brands.
Eating meat directly influences the decrease of the leopard’s prey’s population because their habitat is destroyed to give way to agriculture, livestock and meat production that ultimately attracts leopards to hunt cattle, which exposes them to being shot by farmers. Eating less meat means having more trees, more habitat for more prey resulting in more Amur leopards. It means they could no longer be surrounded by farms that now provide easy access for villagers to enter the area and hunt prey, leopards and tigers.
It doesn’t matter that Amur leopards don’t live in your country, eating meat is a habit that you take to any city or country you travel. In addition, eating less meat is healthy, it is a matter of discovering new options that may surprise you with its flavor. Here are some recipes that you can prepare at home.
There are several organizations that are dedicated, not only in protecting the Amur leopard but also, in educating the people of the region so they understand the importance and role of leopards in an environmental system and how the destruction of their habitat threatens their survival and how it also affects our own lives.
The contribution you make, whether small or large, is of immense help for these cats and all the species that need protection. You can see it this way, once or twice a month, you can choose not to buy a cup of coffee, or not go out to eat at a restaurant or buy drinks, instead, you can use that money to donate and symbolically adopt an Amur Leopard, you will receive a WWF certificate. In addition, you can buy a shirt with the photo of a leopard, tiger or other species to support causes. Many organizations allocate 100% of that money to conservation projects.
Remember, there are only 110 Amur leopards left, let’s help them reach 150.
But, these actions you can take now are: reduce plastic use, avoid products that cause deforestation, eat less meat, eat less fish & seafood, bike to work, car pooling, take public transport, do not buy any type of skins or products made from exotic animals, avoid circuses (places like Sea World), do not pay or take photos with animals, get involved in what’s happening, make donations and report illegal markets.
WWF – WORLD WILDLIFE FUND
The world’s leading conservation organization, protecting Nature for 50 years. On their website you can symbolically adopt an Amur Leopard, you will receive a certificate of your contribution and a stuffed animal. Think about adopting one with your friend or your family.
WILDCATS CONSERVATION ALLIANCE
They channel 100% of the donations received to Amur leopard and tiger protection projects. You can start a donation from $ 7, the equivalent of a hamburger.
Focused on both Amur leopards and Amur Tigers. Their objective is to reach $ 100,000 (almost $ 84,000 raised) to be able to create a team of highly equipped patrols that fight against poaching in the Land of the Leopard National Park (Russia).
T-SHIRT FOR SALE
100% of what’s collected on these shirts goes directly to Amur leopard’s conservation projects.
We hope we have managed to inform you and convince you to get involved and contribute to the cause. We ask that you please share this blog and the video with friends and family. Remember that there is a list of 20 species in critical danger of extinction followed by dozens more that could soon join and increase that list. #LifeIsDying #DontLetIt #FightForIt