The 2013 census of critically endangered Amur leopards in the Russian Far East shows that the populations of some wild groups of the big cat are growing.

Camera trap photo of Amur leopard mother and cub, Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, Primorsky Province, Russia. (Photo: WWF Russia/ISUNR

The most recent census shows “not less than 50” Far Eastern leopards now live in the Russian Far East. The 2007 census found evidence of 27-34 individuals. The leopards have expanded their territory to the north, west toward the coast, and south, where a leopard was recorded on the border with North Korea where no leopards have been observed for a century.

The leopard’s tenuous rebound is due in large part to State support for the establishment of the Poltavsky Provincial Wildlife Refuge, a large unified network of hundreds of thousands of hectares of protected areas known as “Land of the Leopard.”

Big cat competition.

The winter census also revealed 23 Amur tigers living in the territory, double the number of 5 years ago. Biologists suspect that the prey base of Amur tigers and leopards in the southwest  has begun to overlap and there is growing competition between the two rare cats. Trackers in the 2013 census found two cases where a tiger chased a leopard. Only the advanced tree-climbing skill of the leopard saved them. Over the past years at least three leopards are known to have been killed by tigers.

(Map: World Wildlife Fund/Russia)

Chinese border leopards.

A relatively large quantity of leopard prints were found along the border with China. The cats’ territory inside China is unknown as the Chinese have not conducted a census. Last year a minimum of 5 different leopards were photographed by camera traps in border regions; Chinese specialists suggest that 8-11 cats inhabit the Hunchun, Wangqing, and Suiyang Nature Reserves, mostly in the vicinity of leopards registered in the Russian border zone.

Census organizers express their gratitude to Russian border guards for taking active part in the census on the territory they patrol. They provided transportation, shared their excellent knowledge of the surveyed area and provided security along the routes.

Source: Wildlife Extra.