Camera trap sighting of wild Amur leopard adds evidence to possible population stability of species in northeast China
The photos were taken in the afternoon on 19 September 2011, at Xinancha Forestry Farm of Wangqing Forestry Bureau, one of WWF’s Amur tiger conservation pilot sites. The camera traps were set-up by WWF-China and the Jilin Forestry Department to survey the Amur leopard and tiger and their prey. From the clear pictures, WWF experts have identified it as definitely being an Amur leopard.
What makes this particular event important is that the leopard was found scores of kilometres away from the Sino-Russia border – far further than the maximum home range covered by an Amur leopard. Based on previous discoveries of Amur leopard tracks found by WWF-China in Wangqing, this further infers that the leopard caught on camera is likely to be from the area. Also, as the number of Amur leopards in China is already low, this evidence shows that the population of the endangered animal is likely to be individual and stable within northeast China.
Dr Zhu Chunquan, Conservation Director of Biodiversity and Operations, WWF-China said that this was a positive step towards Amur leopard conservation in China.
"The total population of the wild Amur leopard is even more endangered than its more eminent cousin, the Amur tiger. The recovery of the population in northeast China is very critical for the sustainable survival of the entire Amur leopard population in the world,” says Dr Zhu.
WWF-China is working closely with the Jilin Forestry Department to protect the Amur tiger and leopard by conducting activities like anti-poaching, patrolling and monitoring, recovery of prey population, and promoting the establishment of nature reserves to the government. So far, progress has been made in the official drawing up of recovery plans; and Wangqing provincial nature reserve will be promoted to national level, thereby increasing the habitat area for both the Amur tiger and leopard.
The Amur leopard is a very rare and endangered species that is in extreme need of proper conservation efforts. Due to the rarity of the animal, special background survey or data of the Amur leopard has not been conducted in China. But according to data collected roughly ten years ago in the wildlife resource surveys in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, there's an estimated 7-12 Amur leopards in China.
In 2009, WWF-China established the pilot site in Wangqing for wild Amur tiger and leopard conservation. We have been working closely with the Jilin Forestry Department and Wangqing Forest Bureau in the pilot site to ensure tiger and leopard population recovery, and since then successes have been made in finding Amur leopard tracks, excrement, and hairs over the past few years during daily monitoring and winter surveys. Currently, Jilin Forestry Bureau and WWF-China are planning to conduct a background survey for the Amur Leopard population in Jilin to acquire the basic data for conservation.
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