The population of the Amur leopard is estimated at approximately 30 to 40 mature males. The Russian range of this species shrank by nearly 80 percent between the years 1970-1983. The remaining population is in serious decline.
The magnificent Amur or Far Eastern Leopard is one of the most, if not the most, endangered big cat in the world, yet it receives much less attention and conservation funding than the Amur Tiger. The Amur Leopards are in extreme danger of extinction. They are known as strong, solitary, nocturnal animals that can live about 10 to 15 years in the wild. A rare subspecies of leopard, they live in the northern most part of leopard’s range in Northeast Asia and the Russian Far East, in a narrow band of land along the politically sensitive Russian, Chinese and North Korean borders. Weather in the broadleaf and mixed temperate forests is highly variable with extremely cold, snowy winters. The last remaining viable population of about 35 leopards resides in a biodiversity hotspot called Southwest Primorye, a small area in Russia between Vladivostok and the Chinese border.
The Amur Leopard’s primary threats include: out of control habitat loss and fragmentation, deforestation due to intensive logging and clear cutting, rampant human-caused wildfires, development and infrastructure projects, poaching of the leopard and the prey it relies upon (roe deer and sitka deer), inbreeding and the introduction of diseases. The leopard’s range was drastically reduced by about 80% between 1970 and 1983.
The conservation strategy is complex and includes funding for front line anti-poaching patrols, compensation for livestock kills, fire fighting and sustainable forest management, education and awareness about the importance of the Amur Leopard, increasing political will and muscle to save the species. Ideally, this exceptionally biodiversity hotspot, which has about 100 terrestrial endangered species, 48 of them endemic, will be protected by strong international laws and cooperation and local front line protection. The fresh and marine water wetlands in SW Priorye are of global importance to migrating birds. SW Primorye has more protected areas than any other part of Russia.
The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. Wild mercy is in our hands.
—Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert