Amur Leopard

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Endangered species

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TaxonomyKingdom: AnimaliaPhylum: ChordataClass: MammaliaOrder: CarnivoraFamily: FelidaeGenus: PantheraSpecies: pardusSubspecies: orientalis

Introduction:Endangered species areanyspecies ofplant,animal, or other organism that is at risk ofextinctionbecause of a sudden rapid decrease in itspopulationor a loss of its criticalhabitat. Roughly 99% of threatenedspeciesare at risk because of human activities alone. By the early 21st century it could be said thathuman beingsare the greatest threat to biodiversity. The principal threats to species in the wild are (cited from Dublin, 2013):1. Habitat loss and habitat degradation2. The spread ofintroduced species(that is, non-native species that negatively affect the ecosystemsthey become part of)3. The growing influence ofglobal warmingand chemicalpollution4. Unsustainablehunting5. Disease

Amur leopard or its scientific name as Panthera pardus orientalis, has been listed by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as critically endangered. In this folio, the distribution, description, breeding behaviour, diet, special adaptations, threats and conservation strategies of Amur leopard will be discussed.

Distribution: Amur leopards are native to Korea, Manchuria and Siberia. They are named after the Amur River, which run between the Russia and China border. The Amur leopard has many other names linked to its former habitats, including: the Far East leopard, Siberian leopard, Manchurian leopard and Korean leopard. Their range is within rocky mountain woodlands (mountain forest) along the border of southeastern Russia and northeastern China in the Khasan Region of Primorsky Krai (the red circle indicate the range in the diagram below). Part of the territory overlaps with the Amur tiger.

Description: The Amur leopard has a cream coloured coat that is marked with rosette spots of black with tan centers. The coat on the underside of the body is lighter with solid black spots. Their long tails also have solid black spots.

Amur leopard

They are solitary, except during the mating season and while the mother rears her cubs. The female will let the male know she is ready to mate by scent marking. They are good climbers, swimmers and jumpers. Leopards are skilled climbers, carrying carcasses heavier than themselves up trees and descending head first.

Amur leopard the good climber

They can run at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour and leap more than 6m horizontally and 3m vertically. They are nimble-footed and strong. They occur in any area that provides reasonable cover in temperate forests. They communicate through a distinctive rasping bark rather than a growl. Males weigh 82 to 198 pounds (generally 32-48 kg, but can weigh up to 75 kg). Females weigh 62 to 132 pounds (25-43 kg) They are nocturnal (active mainly during the night and dawn) and hence, not easy to spot them. They mark their 30-square-mile territory with urine. Males have hunting territories that never overlap with another males. However, there is sometimes overlap between males and females. Lifespan: 10 to 15 years in the wild; up to 23 years in captivity The difference between snow leopards or jaguars and Amur leopards is on their rosettes pattern. Amur leopards have widely-spaced rosettes with thick black borders. Amur leopards are carnivore.

Breeding Behaviour: Amur leopards can have cubs all year round but there is a peak breeding periods during January to February Amur leopard in zoos show some evidence of breeding seasonality with a peak in births in late spring/early summer. Estrus lasts 1218 days, and in exceptional cases up to 25 days. Gestation period: 90 to 105 days Give birth between 1 to 4 cubs per litter. The weight of a newborn cub is 500700g. Cubs are weaned at 3 months and leave their mother at 18 to 24 months. Sexual maturity: Approximately 3 years and ability to reproduce continues up to 1015 years of age. It has been reported that some males stay with females after mating, and may even help with rearing the young.Several males sometimes follow a female and fight with another male over a female.

Diet: In wild, Amur leopard prey on roe deer, wild boar, sika deer, musk deer, hare (or rodents) and badgers. Roe deer Wild boar Sika deer

Musk deer Hare Badgers

In the captivity, they are fed with feline diet (ground meat fortified with vitamins and minerals). Amur leopards hunt alone. They hunt by stalking, waiting until they are a few meters away before attacking their prey. After catching its prey, they will drag the food into a tree to prevent other animals from taking it, perhaps because they share their range with tigers. They hide food for later consumption. Amur Leopards tend to avoid living or hunting too close to tiger territory to avoid directcompetition for prey.

Special Adaptation: They have large, powerful jaws and long pointed canine teeth to help them grab and hold their prey.

Long pointed canine teeth

The premolars in the back of their mouth have surfaces specially designed for shearing and chewing meat and are referred to as carnassial teeth. They also have sharp, pointed papillae on their tongue to help them remove meat from bones. Their long, thick coat protects it against the cold. The length of their fur can also vary between one and three inches, depending on the time of year (summer will be shorter and winter will be longer). The spots on the coat help to camouflage, so they can sneak up on their prey and hide from predators. Their fur colour changes from reddish yellow in summer to light yellow during winter. Amur leopards have longer legs than other leopards, allowing them to walk in snow with greater ease. The tail of the Amur leopard is thicker and furrier than other leopards and serves as a scarf to place in front of the nose, warming the air for breathing in winter.

Threats: Loss and fragmentation of habitat (major factor) Conversion of forest to agricultural land Illegal and unsustainable logging Forest fire deliberately set each spring to improve fertility for livestock grazing, killing ticks and other insects, making scrap metals visible so that they can be easily collected, culling vegetation along train tracks and stimulating fern growth. Repeated fires have created open "savannah" landscapes with grass, oak bushes and isolated trees that leopards seem to avoid, probably because of low ungulate densities.

Forest fire

Poaching and illegal trade for coats and body parts. The Amur leopards are poached for their beautiful, spotted fur. In 1999, an undercover investigation team recovered a female and a male Amur leopard skin, which were being sold for $500 and $1,000 respectively in the village of Barabash, not far from the Kedrovaya Pad reserve in Russia. The leopard internal parts (especially their bones) go to China for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Amur leopards are most often killed by local Russians from small villages in and around the leopard habitat. Conflict with people where Amur leopard venture into deer farms in search of food, which can result in leopards being shot by farmers protecting their livelihood. Poacherscan sell a deadAmur leopardfor up to $37,000. If caught, they risk afineof just $800. Poaching for skin Illegal trade for coat

Trading demands

Depletion of prey base Roe deer, sika deer and hare are over-hunted by the villagers both for food and cash. Chinese hunters are coming across the border to poison the rivers to collect frogs and to collect other wildlife and this ultimately has a threat on the health of the whole eco-system.

Depletion of prey

Economic Development The habitat area is an important one for Russia, containing many ports. Oil pipeline and road building

Genetic diversity/variation low The Amur leopard is vulnerable to inbreeding depression. The remaining population could disappear as a result of genetic degeneration. As the population of Amur leopards dwindles, genetic diversity also dwindles, weakening the species. The Amur leopard was found to have the lowest levels of genetic variation of any leopard subspecies. Such levels of genetic reduction have been associated with severe reproductive andcongenital abnormalities that impede the health, survival and reproduction of some but not all genetically diminished small populations.

Disease As with all small populations, the risk of extinction due to disease is greater. Any disease or serious health issues may wipe out the entire remaining wild Amur leopard population. Inbreeding may lead to genetic defects and/or weakened immune systems, which makes animals more vulnerable and prone to disease. Canine Distemper Virus which is an emerging disease in wild endangered Amur Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) has been found transmissible to and among wildlife species, including Amur Leopard.

Conservation Status: The Amur leopard is the most endangered member of the cat family. They are among the rearest of all the leopards. IUCN Red List listed The Amur leopard as critically endangered, meaning that the species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Studies have shown that fewer than 35 Amur leopards remain in the wild. It's estimated that 80% of its range was lost between 1970 and 1983

Conservation & Preservation: The Amur leopards are important ecologically, economically and culturally. Conservation of their habitat benefits other species, including Amur tigers and prey species like deer. North American and European zoos are participating in coordinated Amur leopard breeding programs to help preserve this leopard subspecies.

ALTA (Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance) ALTA is an international coalition of organizations working for the conservation of Amur tigers and leopards in the wild (conservation organization). Protect Amur leopards from illegal hunting and habitat destruction. Awareness programmes with local villages and compensation schemes for deer farmers. There are plans in the works to try to reintroduce animals into their natural habitat. ALTA intends to increase prey in areas proposed for reintroduction, ensure that conditions exist conducive for reintroduction in the selected area, and ensure survival of the existing population. There are two sources of leopards for reintroduction: leopards born and raised in zoos and leopards raised in a special reintroduction center passed through a rehabilitation program for life in the wild. Three necessary behaviours of Amur leopards should be acquired prior to release: hunting and killing of live natural prey; avoidance of humans and avoidance of tigers. In March 2009, the Minister of Natural Resources of Russia during his meeting withVladimir Putin reassured that the ministry is planning to introduce new "imported" Amur leopards into the area and creating suitable and safe habitat for them. The government already allocated all required funds for the project.

WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Restoring and linking areas of forest, so leopards can move between habitats. Gaining government agreement to safeguard existing nature reserves. Establishing a programme to increase prey numbers. Restoring and linking areas of forest, so leopards can move between habitats. Gaining government agreement to safeguard existing nature reserves. Establishing a programme to increase prey numbers. Equipping and training local firefighters to reduce the impact of forest fires. Increasing fines for poaching and illegal trade of leopards and prey species. Amur leopards received a safe haven in 2012 when the government of Russia declared a new protected area called Land of the Leopard National Park, this marked a major effort to save the worlds rarest cat. The national park extending nearly 650,000 acres it includes all of the Amur leopards breeding areas and about 60 percent of the critically endangered cats remaining habitat. The park is also home to 10 endangered Amur tigers.

The colour in light green is the protected area; the dark green is the recreational area.

Together with TRAFFIC, the worlds largest wildlife trade monitoring network, WWF help governments enforce domestic and international trade restrictions on Amur leopard products. Amur leopards are listed on CITES Appendix I, prohibiting all commercial trade in the species. Monitoring Amur leopard populations and habitat using camera traps. Releasing prey such as roe deer, sika deer and wild boar into new reserves in China to rebuild prey populations. Increase protected land in both Russia and China Reducing illegal and unsustainable logging practices Facilitating trade between companies committed to responsible forestry practices. Lobbied the Russian government to reroute a planned oil pipeline that would have endangered the leopards habitat in 2007.

ZSL (Zoological Society of London) organizing a reintroduction plan which aims to have a second population of Amur leopards established in a reserve where they used to live, north of Vladivostok and away from the cities.

Individual effort: Spread the word Send a free e-card, featuring animals and places, to friends and family to show that we care about wildlife and the planet. Adopt an Amur Leopard Make a symbolic Amur leopard adoption by donation to the conservation organization. Become a partner in conservation Annual contribution of $1,000 or more. A comprehensive education program for school children and students in the leopard range. Media campaign to create awareness about the Amur leopard's plight.

Conclusion:After the conservation and preservation efforts made to the critically endangered Amur leopards, report from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has shown an increase in the number of Amur leopard captured in wild using CamTraker and Panthera camera within the year 2002 2011. In 2011, the researcher recorded 17 different leopards which are the most ever in nine years of monitoring. While most of these likely represent transients, it is still a positive sign that the population is reproducing and at least maintaining itself. Table below shows the results of this surveillance.

Number of leopard photographs, captures, and the minimumnumber of leopards in the study area from 2003-2011

As conservation and preservation efforts shown a positive impact, these activities should be continued to ensure a better future of these critically endangered species.


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