Not to be confused with the cheetah, today’s endangered tale is brought to you by the Amur Leopard. The name Amur comes form the Amur river which separates Far East Russia from Northeast China. The Amur leopard is also known as the Korean leopard or the Manchurian leopard depending on which region is referencing it. It is currently listed on the IUCN Endangered Species list as critically endangered.
Leopards are usually associated with high elevation environments or savannas of Africa. The Amur leopard is the long distant cousin of its family in Africa seeking temperate forests and harsh winters found in Russia’s Far East. Amurs have longer legs than their leopard cousin allowing them to run speeds up to 37 mph and can jump up to 10 feet in the air vertically. In the summer, the individual hairs on their pelts are 2 cm long but in the winter, they grow up to 7 cm long. Amurs are very solitary, nocturnal creatures. They’re really good hunters; mainly preying on roe deer, small wild boar, hares, badgers and raccoon dogs.
Amur leopards have a relativity short life span; about as long as your average domestic dog or cat. In the wild they live about 10-15 years. In captivity, they may live up to 20 years. They reach sexual maturity at three years of age and breed in spring or early summer. Litter sizes are between 1-4 cubs that are weaned off mom at three months and leave mom at a year and a half. Male amurs are sometimes known for sticking around and helping rearing the young after mating with a female.
I couldn’t pinpoint exact numbers on how many amur leopards there once were but their population has been dramatically reduced because 80% of their habitat range has been loss due to deforestation. There are fewer than 60 individuals left in existence making the Amur leopard the most endangered large cat in the world. As the forests are being cut down for logging purposes, not only does it affect the Amur leopard, it affects the prey that they eat because they become more scarce. Conflicts with humans are another huge cause for the decreases in population. Poachers illegally hunt the Amur leopard for it’s beautiful fur. A female pelt goes for $500 USD and a male pelt goes for $1000 USD on the black market. Lastly, inbreeding also plays a huge factor in depressed populations. Father-daughter and sibling mating have been observed which leads to problematic genetic mutations and lower fertility rates.
Conservationists are working hard to increase the Amur leopard population. Russia has declared forest areas federally protected and are working together with groups like the WWF to increase the prey population in the Amur leopard’s range. Efforts do pay off in some instances such as in 2007 where conservationists were able to convince the Russian government to reroute the construction of an oil pipeline away from the Amur leopard’s habitat.
If you would like to do you part in supporting conservationists, you can adopt an Amur Leopard here.