The number of Amur leopards in the wild in the Far East of Russia has dramatically increased, say wildlife experts.
Do you like my gloves? Lucky photographer Valery Maleyev pictures Amur leopard with unusual white 'gloves'. Picture: Valery Maleyev
A new survey has found that the threat of extinction has eased compared with 2007 when no more than 35 animals were known to exist. The latest count suggests they number 48 to 50 in the southwest region of the Primorsky Territory.
'But even 50 are very few. When there are 70-100, then one can say that the species is not endangered', said Sergei Aramilev, programme coordinator for the Amur regional organisation of the World Wildlife Fund.
The count was made by following tracks, using DNA analysis and photo-monitoring in their natural habitat in the taiga. The findings amounted to a 'pleasant surprise' for experts, reported Itar-Tass.
The leopards are also roaming a wider area than in the 2007 survey. The specialists found a whole family living on the Russian-Chinese border with five new cats added to the population. The territory of the Amur leopard includes areas of China and North Korea.
2013 map by WWF Russia shows Amur leopard (yellow) and tiger (red) habitats. Picture: WWF Russia
In a hopeful sign for the future, more than half the leopards located in the recent big cat census were inside a vast new national park called Land of Leopard, which occupies 280,000 hectares.
In January, Primorsky region governor Vladimir Miklushevsky signed a decree on a new national park, approved by the Kremlin to protect the endangered cat. Poaching is seen as the biggest threat to the leopard, though climate change and human encroachment are other factors, say experts.
The rare Amur tigress was saved from starvation more than a year ago after she was orphaned when poachers killed her mother.
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