The rare Amur or Siberian Leopards are amongst the most endangered cats in the whole world. Nearly forty individuals exist in an area encompassing parts of Southeastern Russia, Northeastern China and North Korea, overlapping the range of Siberian Tiger. In this remote and unforgiving wilderness the beautiful cats face a multitude of threats, the most serious of them being poaching and loss of habitat. It is believed that poachers interested in the leopard's beautiful fur were responsible for the initial downfall of this subspecies, with numbers plummeting to around thirty individuals some time ago - the minimum required to maintain enough genetic biodiversity for a species' survival. Today the numbers are back to around forty, with thirty animals being in Russia, ten in China and a small population in North Korea. Still it is believed that if poachers kill two or three more females, it may be impossible to maintain a viable population of the big cat in the wild.
Amur Leopards face other threats too. Their habitat is next to sites of some industrial megaprojects - pipelines of oil and natural gas that are proposed to pass through their territory. Recently through tireless efforts of environmental activists and political intervention, the oil pipeline was diverted. But the gas pipeline is still planned to go through their reserve - Kedrovaya Pad - the oldest national park in Russia. Then there is also the plan to construct a major highway through the park that will certainly disrupt the ecosystem of the great cats' habitat.
Still there are signs of hope. The governance and management system of the reserve have been enhanced recently and a 'preserved' status has been allocated to the park, allowing the authorities to improve the security system and better combat illegal destruction of local fauna and flora. Allocation of funds has also been boosted this year. Whether all of this will help save the critically endangered leopard of far east though, remains to be seen. One thing is for sure - as adaptable and resilient as leopard are - if we just provide them some peace and protection in their natural environment - they are quite likely to make a comeback from the brink of extinction ... more here: