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Amur leopards

Amur leopard
Scientific name: Panthera pardus orientalis
Number remaining: As few as 70
Extinction risk: Critically endangered

About the Amur leopard

With as few as 70 adults remaining in the wild – the Amur leopard is probably the rarest and most endangered big cat in the world.

The Amur leopard is a nocturnal creature that lives and hunts alone. Its unique coat – which has widely spaced rosettes with thick black borders – makes it easy to distinguish from other species of leopard. In the summer its coat is short, but in the winter it’s thick– with hairs up to 7cm long to help keep it warm during the harsh Siberian winters.

In the wild, Amur leopards are only found around the border areas between the Russian Far East and north-east China, in a range that’s smaller than 2,500 sq km. That’s an area smaller than Dorset.

Habitat destruction, degradation and poaching of Amur leopards and their prey are persistent threats – and the future of this species is uncertain. The Amur leopard is critically endangered.

Find out how you can help protect Amur leopards

Adopt an Amur leopard

Why Amur leopards matter

Far Eastern or Amur leopard © WWF-Russia Far East Programme

Amur leopards help maintain a healthy balance

Amur leopards are top predators which means they play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of species within their habitat. This in turn influences the condition of the forest and overall ecosystem – which supplies both nature and people with food, freshwater and many other resources.

Onon river

Shares its habitat with the Amur Tiger

The Amur leopard also shares its habitat with the Amur tiger – so much of what we do to protect the Amur leopard and its habitat is also helping to protect this beautiful and endangered tiger.

By protecting the Amur leopard, we’re helping to conserve its habitat for the benefit of both people and other wildlife.

Threats to Amur leopards

Encroaching human civilisation, building of new roads, logging and forest fires are destroying Amur leopard habitat. It’s estimated that nearly 20% of Amur leopard habitat is affected by forest fires every year.

Amur leopard prey is in decline because of hunting, fires and habitat loss. The leopards often favour the same prey as Amur tigers, so both these species of big cat are affected.

Because so few Amur leopards remain, they’re vulnerable to the effects of inbreeding. This can reduce the health and fitness of individuals or whole populations.

Amur leopards are also at risk from poaching for the illegal trade in body parts. Their beautiful coats are particularly sought after, as well as their bones which are used in traditional Asian medicines. 

Amur leopard snarling in snow.

How WWF is helping protect Amur leopards

Deer on a road though a forest in Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Prey recovery

We’ve helped significantly to increase the numbers of deer and wild boar in Amur leopard habitat – by supplementing the food of these prey species during hard winters, vaccinating wild boar against disease, and educating wildlife managers and hunters on how to maintain healthy population numbers of ungulates.

Sniffer dogs are specially trained to locate smuggled tiger parts - helping WWF and TRAFFIC stop illegal wildlife trade

Tackling poaching and wildlife crime

We work alongside TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) to investigate and crack down on the illegal trade in Amur leopard products – and to reduce demand, so that this trade will no longer be a significant threat to the conservation of this species.

The Sikhote Alin mountains.  Amur region. Far East. Russian Federation

Protecting habitat

We’re working with local communities, regional authorities and governments to increase the amount of protected land that’s available to Amur leopards. We promote ways to reduce illegal and unsustainable forest practices.. This helps to protect what little Amur leopard habitat remains.

Amur leopard

Success story: 22% increase in Amur leopards

A survey in 2013 showed an increase from around 35 in 2007 to around 45 adult Amur leopards in the wild.

There are now around 70 adult Amur leopards in the wild - around 50 in Russia and a small population in north-east China.

Also, previous DNA analysis showed the population ratio of males to females was around 50:50 – giving great hope for the continued recovery of the population. This increase in numbers demonstrates that conservation can work – and gives us hope that this species can recover from the brink of extinction.

How you can help protect Amur leopards