Amur leopard: the world's rarest cat? species:
Affected by: Illegal wildlife trade , Climate change , Habitat loss and fragmentation , Deforestation
Not many people ever see an Amur leopard in the wild. Not surprising, as there are so few of them, but a shame considering how beautiful they are. Thick, luscious, black-ringed coats and a huge furry tails they can wrap around themselves to keep warm.
The good news is, having been driven to the edge of extinction, their numbers appear to be rising thanks to previous conservation work.
The Amur leopard is a nocturnal animal that lives and hunts alone – mainly in the vast forests of Russia and China. During the harsh winter, the hairs of that unique coat can grow up to 7cm long.
Over the years the Amur leopard hasn't just been hunted mercilessly, its homelands have been gradually destroyed by unsustainable logging, forest fires, road building, farming, and industrial development.
But recent research shows conservation work is having a positive effect, and wild Amur leopard numbers are believed to have increased to at least 120 adults, in Russia and north-east China. The Amur leopard, however, still remains one of the rarest and most critically endangered leopard subspecies in the world.
Where do Amur Leopards live?
Amur leopards prefer to live in areas with mixed Korean pine and deciduous forest while avoiding open grasslands or populated areas.
They are now only found in the border areas between the Russian Far East and north-east China, and possibly North Korea. Most Amur leopards are in Russia, with a few in China. Their range is smaller than 2,500 sq km—that’s an area smaller than Dorset.
Why Amur leopards are so important
Amur leopards are top predators in their landscape, so they’re crucial role for keeping the right balance of species in their area. That also affects the health of the forests and wider environment, which provides local wildlife and people with food, water and other resources.