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One scene captures a pair of leopards moving languidly through a small forest clearing, while a second shows a female leopard parenting a nearly grown-up cub. 
 
When the last full census was done during the winter of 2010, estimates were that fewer than 40 Amur leopards remained in the wild," said Diane Walkington, Head of Species at WWF-UK. "Whilst this most recent survey in one part of their habitat certainly doesn't prove growth of the whole population, it does demonstrate a positive trend. We hope that next winter, after monitoring is carried out on the leopards' whole home range, we will see some positive results. 
 
Although similar monitoring has been taking place for 6 years, this is the first time WWF Russia and the Institute of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources (ISUNR) have used video-enabled cameras to monitor the leopards living in and around the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve
 
"This year the survey was record-breaking .The digital cameras helped us capture longer image sequences for the survey, which gave us important insights into these unique animals' lives," says Sergei Aramilev, Species Program Coordinator at WWF Russia's Amur Branch. "In the previous 5 years of camera-trapping, we were able to identify between 7 and 9 individual leopards in this monitoring plot. Today we know at least 12 different leopards inhabit the territory."
 
"The results are pointing to a population increase of up to 50 per cent within the target group," Aramilev continues, "and I think we can attribute this to improvements in how our reserves are managed and the long-term efforts that have gone into leopard conservation."
 
The recordings, which document a total of 12 leopards, reveal two different pairs of the rare spotted animals and one individual in the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and "Leopardovy" Federal Wildlife Refuge in Russia's Primorsky Province, located between the Sea of Japan and the Chinese border.
 
The Amur leopard now inhabits only a fraction of its original range, which once extended throughout China's Northeastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, and into the Korean Peninsula. In Russia, about 80 per cent of the species' former range disappeared between 1970 and 1983.
 
Unsustainable logging, forest fires and land conversion for farming are the main causes. The Amur leopard - which is also know as the Far-Eastern leopard, Korean leopard and Manchurian leopard - has also been hit hard by poaching, mostly for its unique spotted fur.
 
In December 2010, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the government would take urgent measures to protect the critically endangered species, including the creation of a new national park - the "Land of Leopard".
 
The new, larger reserve will merge the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve with the nearby Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge in Russia, as well as encompassing other important habitats. Work is also continuing to establish a transboundary protected area network with China, that would provide even more well-managed and connected habitat for the Amur leopard..
 
"Even the first steps towards establishing the "Land of Leopard" national park are having positive results. The fact that the number of Amur leopards has grown from 7 to 12 on the monitoring plot offers proof that creating one united trans-boundary protected area is the right idea," says Yury Darman, Director of WWF Russia's Amur branch.
 
Notes to Editors

Video from the leopard survey is available at

http://gvn.panda.org/pages/view.php?ref=3168&k=88d8d75aaf
 
 
For more information please contact
Jo Sargent
Senior Press Officer
WWF-UK
01483 412 375
07867 697 519"