People usually think that leopards are representatives of the savannah of Africa, although a rare subspecies of leopards can be found in the Far East of our country, as well as in northern China. This subspecies was named the Amur leopard in the Far East. He is also known as the Amur leopard.
This predator was listed in the Red Book. It belongs to the subspecies, which is on the verge of extinction. The population of the Far Eastern leopard is in critical condition today.
At the same time, the moment that the Amur tiger - its famous “cousin” - has increased the number of its population gives hope for the preservation of this subspecies. It is believed that the Amur leopard, whose photos are presented in this article, can be saved by implementing various environmental protection projects.
This leopard has many distinctive features from the rest of the feline. In summer, the wool reaches 2.5 centimeters in length, and in the winter it is replaced by 7 centimeters. In cold weather the Amur leopard has a light coat color with a reddish-yellow tinge, in the summer more saturated and bright tones predominate.
The Amur leopard in the Far East (photos of the animal are presented in this article) has long legs that allow it to walk freely in the snow. The weight of males reaches 48 kg, although there are also larger representatives of the breed - 60 kg. Females weigh up to 43 kg.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the leopard was found in the south of Sikhote-Alin, as well as in the southwestern part of Lake Khanka, although in recent years it was not observed there. At present, the Amur leopard lives in mountainous areas of the southwestern part of the Primorsky Territory, where it gives a clear preference to the cedar-black fir and broad-leaved forests. It is less willing to inhabit deciduous forests, especially pyrogenic oak forests, whose areas are increasing due to annual fires.
This representative of the Cat family chooses areas with steep hillsides, rugged terrain, watersheds and rock outcrops. At present, its range has decreased to a critical size and covers only a limited forest area of 15 thousand km² (in Primorye, from Posyet Bay to the Razdolnaya River, as well as on the border with the DPRK and the PRC).
Life cycle and reproduction
In the Amur leopard, puberty begins at the age of 3 years. In the wild, life expectancy is about 15 years, while in captivity - 20 years. The Amur leopard has a mating season in the spring. Litter includes 1-4 cubs. At three months of age, their weaning occurs, while the young become independent at 1.5 years, leaving their mother to lead a single life.
The Amur leopard (pictures with its image are presented in this article) prefers a single nocturnal lifestyle. But after mating, some males may remain with their females, as well as help in raising their young. It often happens that several males simultaneously pursue one female, and also struggle for the possibility of mating with her.
The basis of its diet consists of roe deer, raccoon dogs, hares, small boars, badgers, and spotted deer.
The Amur leopard in the Far East from 1970 to 1983 lost more than 80% of its territory. The main reasons were: fires, forest industry, as well as the transformation of land for agriculture. But all is not lost. At the present moment there are suitable forest tracts for animals. It is possible to protect the territory from the harmful influence of humans, in addition, to increase the population size.
Shortage of prey
It should be noted that in China there are vast areas that are suitable habitat, while the level of food supply is not enough to maintain the population at the right level. The volume of prey can increase due to the regulation of the use of forests by the population, as well as the adoption of measures to protect ungulates. To survive, the Far Eastern leopard needs to re-fill its original habitat.
Illegal trade and poaching
The Amur leopard is constantly subjected to illegal hunting because of its spotted and beautiful fur. An investigation team conducted an experiment under cover in 1999: they were able to recreate the skin of a male and female Far Eastern leopard, after which they sold it for $ 500 and $ 1,000.
This experiment demonstrates that there are illegal markets for such products and they are located near animal habitats. Villages and agriculture surround the forests inhabited by these animals. This creates accessibility to forests, and poaching is a more serious problem here than in regions distant from people. This circumstance concerns both leopards and other animals that are subject to extermination for the sake of money and food.
Conflict with man
It should be noted that the Amur leopard (a photo of an animal is admired with beauty) is especially vulnerable, since deer are part of its diet. A person’s contribution to the overall decrease in the number of deer, due to the value of his horns, prevents the leopard from getting enough food.
Due to the decline in the deer population, leopards often go to reindeer herding in search of food. The owners of these lands often kill animals, protecting their investments.
The Amur leopard is also threatened with extinction due to its small population, which makes it vulnerable to a variety of disasters, including diseases, forest fires, changes in mortality and fertility rates, sex ratios, inbreeding depression. It should be noted that kinship ties were observed in nature, which means that it can lead to various genetic problems, including a decrease in the birth rate.
Such matings are found in certain populations of large cats, although in small populations they do not allow outbreeding. Studies have shown that in an adult female, the average number of calves decreased significantly.
Unfortunately, at the present time, the situation with the Amur leopard can be considered truly catastrophic - for example, over the past twenty years, its habitat area in our country has almost halved, while the number has declined several dozen times. Due to this, the Amur leopard is protected today.
The Red Book of the Russian Federation attributed the animal to the first category as the rarest, which is on the verge of extinction, with a very limited range, whose main population is within our country. At the same time, the leopard fell into the Annex of the First CITES Convention and the Red Book of the Union of Conservation of Nature.
The Far Eastern leopard is a rather large wild cat, but smaller in size than a tiger, a lion and a jaguar.
- The slim, graceful body of a predator has an elongated shape, somewhat “flattened” from the sides, its length is 105 - 137 cm. Height at withers is 60 - 78 cm.
- The tail is long - 80 - 90 cm.
- Limbs powerful, not long.
- Claws sharp, vtyazhnye, on the front paws up to five centimeters in length.
- The mass of an adult male from 32 to 53 kg, females - does not exceed 43 kg.
- The head is rounded, relatively small in size.
- The forehead is powerful and bulging.
- The nose is wide, elongated, dark color.
- The ears are set wide, rounded, small, black on the back.
- Eyes with a round pupil, not large.
- Mustache elastic, up to 10 cm long, black and white.
- Fangs sharp, long, as blades.
- The animal has a thick soft coat, tight to the body. The length of the pile on the belly reaches 7 cm, on the back - 2.5 cm in the summer and up to 5 cm in the winter. The main coat color is yellow with red or reddish tinge, in winter it is not as bright as in summer. This is especially noticeable from the photos taken in different time periods.
The description of the breed in winter is somewhat different from the description in the summer. And all this thanks to the changes that occur with the fur of the animal.
Spotted coloring allows the animal to merge with the environment, to become imperceptible to the victim and enemies. The location of the markings on the coat is unique for each individual and allows them to be identified: there are two types of black markings - ring-shaped and solid.
Small homogeneous spots are located on the chin, forehead, near the whiskers, on the cheeks, the paws and the lower part of the body are covered with larger markings. On the back and sides scattered dark rings up to 5 cm in diameter. The tail at the top is decorated with large spots - solid and ring-shaped.
Hunting and diet
Nocturnal solo hounds for prey are common for this predator. He does not like hustle and bustle. He waits for a long time to sacrifice, imperceptibly sneaking up to her. With the ease and grace of the panther, the animal catches up in several jumps, sticks sharp canines into the throat. He eats immediately, tearing off pieces of meat with his teeth from the victim.
Large production lasts for 5 - 7 days. The predator hides the uneaten food remains in a secluded place (under trees, in small niches) or drags it into its lair. From time to time badgers and raccoons make night visits to the cache, not averse to profit from other reserves of foxes, wild boars and even bears. But most often the tidbit falls to the crows, magpies and tits.
All that feeds the Far Eastern leopard, not count. Favorite now - wild goats and deer, they predator hunts in the summer. In winter, the beast switches to East Asian deer and wild boar cubs. Minor "feedstuffs" are small rodents, raccoons, hares, hazel grouses, badgers, pheasants. This leopard can attack cubs.
Reproduction and care for offspring
Not all females are able to give offspring, moreover, for various reasons, it often dies. The marriage period lasts for several days, falls at the end of autumn or beginning of January. Males are more interested in young females, for them they arrange bloody battles. Animals do not create long-term pairs. After mating, the female tries to get rid of the undesirable neighborhood with the male and secretly prepares a lair for the upcoming genera.
Pregnancy last 3 - 3.5 months. Usually from 1 to 4 kittens are born in the female. The cub of the Far Eastern leopard is born blind, weighing no more than 600 grams, and in a large litter - about 400 grams. It is covered with thick fluffy sandy-colored fur with pronounced spotting.
The kittens open their eyes at 7 days, they begin to crawl at two weeks, walk at a month and a half, by two months they are already showing from the den. Three-month babies make four-kilometer runs with their mother, five-month ones can easily overcome and 8 km.
Till 5 - 6 months cubs eat mother's milk. The first time they try meat in 1.5 - 2 months, by 3 months they cannot do without it at all. Near the mother, most often, remain until the next offspring, but can live independently from one and a half years. The Far Eastern leopard reaches puberty - the male reaches the age of 2 - 3 years, the female is 2 years old.
The predator lives in captivity for more than 20 years, in natural, natural conditions - from 10 to 15 years.
The predator is listed in the International Red Book as the rarest subspecies, whose habitat is limited. The main population is in the territory of the Russian Federation, where hunting for this animal has been banned since 1956. If it were not for the intervention of the state, the Far Eastern leopard would have long been considered an extinct species.
For many years in a row, scientists face the task of saving the genetic stock of a given leopard subspecies. Animals in the zoos of Europe, Asia and Russia participate in the European program for the conservation and breeding of the Far Eastern subspecies. Of these, only 10 individuals can be considered purebred, the rest - the result of crossing with the North Chinese subspecies.
Since 2008, a government program has been operating in Russia aimed at saving the Far Eastern leopard and increasing its numbers. The strategy to preserve the animal in the first place includes the creation of protected areas. One of the oldest reserves in Russia, Cedar Pad, where this subspecies constantly lives, was discovered almost a hundred years ago. The reserve "Leopard" appeared on the territory of Primorsky Krai in 2008.
Land of the Leopard, the largest protected area of the Primorsky Territory, is an exciting 60% of the predator's habitat and has been operating since 2012. The park is stretched from north to south for 150 km, its western border coincides with the border of China. The protection of the Far Eastern leopard and the creation of favorable conditions for reproduction are the main focus of the reserve's work. Park staff support the predators feed base and conduct round-the-clock surveillance with the help of camera-traps.
Amur leopard Far East cautious and secretive. Caught on the eyes of a person extremely rarely, quickly retreats, leaving no traces. Apparently, therefore, almost no one succeeded in tracing him. The solution to the problem was found at the very end of the 20th century, when scientists invented a photo-trap. The first photos of the beast appeared already in 2001.
The device is absolutely safe. It consists of a camera, infrared radiation sensor, battery. The device is installed in the area where the Far Eastern leopard lives, on both sides of the trail. To the animal stopped in the middle of the trail, a bait with an attractive smell is placed on the ground. The sensor responds to heat and sends a signal to the camera. The beast enters the frame from two sides at the same time. Replacing digital media and recharging the power supply is carried out once in 5 - 6 days.
Not so long ago, experts began to use not only photos, but also video mode shooting around the clock. It allows you to track each predator separately, observe the brood, assist the animal, if necessary, gather interesting facts and process statistical data. Video and photo materials, in case of killing a leopard, help to quickly find the culprit.
Red Book: Far Eastern Leopard
The predator has a thick long fur. Especially noticeable in winter attire. This beautiful cat is one of the most beautiful and very rare cats in the world. Recently, the Red Book of Russia has been added to these animals. The Far Eastern leopard received the status of an endangered species. This circumstance is very disturbing for environmentalists and animal advocates. Today, efforts are being made to preserve the subspecies and increase its number.
The Far Eastern leopard, whose photo adorns many publications about predators in Russia, is listed in the IUCN Red Book, as well as in the Appendix of the CITES International Convention.
Despite the efforts being made, today the situation with these magnificent handsome men is considered catastrophic. And for this there is every reason. Only in the last two decades, the leopard's habitat in our country has halved, and its numbers have decreased tenfold. Today in Russia there are no more than 30 individuals. In China, according to the latest data, no more than 10 animals. There is no information about the presence of these animals in Korea.
Predisposition to change the range and number of this beautiful animal of recent years looks threatening. The last, once reliable refuge of the Far Eastern leopard in our country - the south of Primorsky Krai is not protected either. The deforestation is not reduced, but deforestation is gaining momentum, vegetation is being systematically burned up, new roads are being reconstructed and laid, individuals that cause damage to deer herds are being destroyed.
The cases of poaching, which is stimulated by the fashion for the luxurious skins of these animals, have become more frequent.
External signs of a leopard
Many special editions place on its pages its description. The Far Eastern leopard is an unusually graceful and slim cat with a thick and fluffy fur coat. This is the rarest species of feline on earth.
His body is slim, with incredible flexibility. The head is rounded, the correct form.
The predator molts twice a year. His summer outfit has a shorter coat (2.5 cm), the winter coat is rather dull, long, and has a thick undercoat (5 to 7 cm).
Paws strong and slender, having strong retractable claws.
Coat varies with the season. In winter, the Amur leopard is dressed in a rusty, reddish-gold fur coat or a light yellow fur coat. In the summer she gets more saturated tones. On the skin are scattered clearly defined rings or black spots. Eyes are blue-green or gray-blue.
When people think of leopards, most of them imagine the savannas of Africa. Despite this, there is a rare subspecies of these animals, which lives in the forests of the Far East and in northern China. Именно поэтому он получил название дальневосточный леопард, нередко его называют амурским барсом. Как уже говорилось, популяция находится в критическом состоянии, но все-таки остается надежда на восстановление данного подвида. Вспомним тот факт, что его не менее великолепный кузен – амурский тигр - менее чем за 60 лет увеличил популяцию. А ведь когда-то тигров тоже насчитывалось менее 40 особей.
Experts believe that the Far Eastern leopard, the photo of which you see in the article, can be saved subject to the implementation of environmental projects.
This beautiful predator lives in temperate forests with a wide temperature spectrum. Today, the leopard lives on an area of about 5,000 square meters. km A viable population of this subspecies in the wild is preserved in Primorsky Krai (RF), between China and Vladivostok.
The leopard of the Far East, like no other predator, is subject to illegal hunting because of its beautiful and expensive fur. An undercover investigation team conducted an experiment: they recreated the skin of the female and the male of this animal, and then sold them for $ 5,000 and $ 10,000, respectively. The “deal” took place in the village of Barabash, not far from Kedrovaya Pad reserve.
This experiment showed that even today there are illegal markets for such products in the habitats of animals. In these areas, poaching becomes a much more serious problem than in areas remote from people.
The Far Eastern leopard is a twilight animal. He goes hunting in the evening or at night. Rarely, but if very hungry, can stalk prey in the daytime.
His victim is most often ambushed. The predator steals up to it very carefully, trying to use the local relief to come closer. A leopard goes to a watering place only when dusk falls in the forest.
The beast has very sharp eyesight. He can see his victim at a great distance (up to 1.5 km). But with hearing and smell, the situation is somewhat worse.
The Far Eastern leopard climbs trees perfectly. Even large prey is easily dragged to the branches.
At short distances it develops a very decent speed (55 km / h). This cat does not like to swim.
Often uses the roads and trails made by man. He is not afraid of him, does not attack, but simply tries to leave unnoticed. Constant human presence can not stand - from such places forever leaving.
He lives on the same plot for many years, walks on the same paths and uses only brood dens.
Danger to humans
Of all the representatives of this group, the Far Eastern leopard is the most peaceful. He does not attack a person - not a single case has been registered in the last 50 years. It rarely attacks pets.
From this it follows that this predator is not a threat to humans.
"Far Eastern leopard. The struggle for the throne"
In December 2014, this amazing documentary created by Russian filmmakers came out on the screens of our country.
Every person on our planet should see this movie. The Far Eastern leopard is shown in it as no one has seen it yet. Cautious and elusive animals appear from nowhere and rapidly disappear into nowhere, as if dissolving in the vast wild and beautiful Far Eastern taiga.
For a long time (more than a year), the crew collected unique material in order to capture the very same shots that no one else could have done. This is a desperate struggle for survival, raising babies, eating and hunting, details of complex relationships in one family of leopards and their competition with other animals.
The main heroine of the film was a beautiful, graceful female Kedrovka. Neighbors in the taiga forest constantly began to steal her prey, and predators seek to kill her kittens. A desperate mother is forced to leave the den by the Kedrovaya River and lead her children into the depths of the Ussuri taiga.
With the onset of winter, not far from the den, which Kedrovka had to leave, a carcass of a deer suddenly appeared. Who got it? Kedrovka herself, one of her surviving and matured kittens, or maybe a new beast appeared in these wild taiga lands, claiming to be the "taiga throne"?
In order to answer these numerous questions and at the same time take amazing pictures from the life of the most mysterious predatory cats on earth, the team of My Planet studio turned the territory of Leopard Land Park into an unusually large shooting area. Documentary filmmakers used the most advanced, truly unique, state-of-the-art technology and hidden cameras. It is especially important that the film crew observed the most important condition - preservation of the calmness of predators, nothing should frighten them and force them to leave their habitats.
Today we introduced you to the most beautiful and rarest predatory cat on earth. I'd like to believe that the Far Eastern leopard will survive, lest it happen that in a few years we will remember him in the past tense. The next generations should see them, they should know about this amazing animal that man so ruthlessly destroyed.
The leopard living in the Far East, on a number of features differs from all other individuals belonging to the feline family. In summer, its wool can reach 2-3 cm, and by the onset of cold weather it can grow up to seven centimeters. On the other hand, in winter the wool has a light shade, with some patches of yellowish-red, and in warm periods it is more saturated. Also, in comparison with its other brethren, the Amur leopard has stronger and longer limbs, allowing it to move freely in the snow. The body weight of an adult male is approximately equal to 47 kg, but sometimes it is possible to meet larger animals, whose weight can reach 62 kg. Females usually weigh no more than 40 kg.
The body of the Far Eastern leopard is graceful, elongated and slender. The tail of the animal is straight, even and quite long. Limbs muscular, strong, head has a rounded shape. Nature seemed to have “deliberately” presented the Far Eastern leopard with such a long tail, which now allows it to maneuver confidently while jumping from steep cliffs.
The neck of this predator is incredibly powerful, this is what gives him the opportunity to grab the victim and then drag it along with it, even though it may be bigger and heavier than him a couple of times.
The Amur leopard predominantly lives in sparse forests, in an area where precipitation is abundant, and the temperature range is quite extensive. At present, the total area occupied by the Far Eastern leopard is approximately 5 thousand square meters. m
The Far Eastern leopard clearly prefers forests where cedars, fir and larch grow. For the comfortable existence of the Amur leopard, it is necessary to populate the territory where there are steep hills, water bodies, the relief is crossed, there are outcrops of rocks.
According to official estimates, no more than 25 individuals currently live in the wild. All Far Eastern leopards occupy a small area, which is located on the border between China and Vladivostok. On the territory of China itself there are about 8-11 adult viable leopards. The last message about a meeting with a Far Eastern leopard in South Korea dates back to 1969, when an animal was caught near Oda Mountain, which is located in Kensan-Namdu.
The history of the distribution of the Amur leopard
At this point, it can be argued that the distribution of the population has been extremely reduced relative to its original historical habitats. In former times, this stately animal occupied the entire northeastern part of Manchuria, including the province of Jilin and Heilunjiang, as well as the Korean p / o.
Social behavior of individuals
The Far Eastern leopard is prone to being alone, going hunting at night, and resting during the day. However, there are many cases where the males remained together with the female after mating had already taken place, and even assisted her in raising and searching for food for the offspring. Also, it often happens that several adult males look after one female, fighting among themselves for the opportunity to mate with her.
The Amur leopard reaches puberty by the age of three years. In conditions of wild habitat, an animal can live for about 13 years, on average. When kept in zoos and aviaries, the lifespan is extended to twenty years. The time of marriage rituals at the Amur leopard falls on the first month of summer or spring.
One female in the litter has one to four calves. Kittens are born completely blind, their skin is already spotty, warm. The fur is silky, sockets are not formed. Their weight barely reaches 700 grams, the length of the body is about 15 cm.
When they are about three months old, the baby leaves the mother's milk. A fully independent beast becomes one and a half to two years of life and can leave its mother in order to continue to live alone.
Feeding the Far Eastern Leopard
The diet of the animal includes badgers, roes, small wild hares or wild boars, deer and raccoon dogs. In some cases, the predator can attack large birds of prey. This animal has a keen eyesight, it allows him to see his victim at a great distance, up to one and a half kilometers.
In addition, they can climb the trunks of trees, so even raccoons can not escape from them. It is curious that the Far Eastern leopard only needs to catch only one spotted deer, and this will allow it to live comfortably for the next 10 days, so during this period the predator does not pay attention to other living creatures that are part of his diet.
Threat of existence
The majority of the natural habitat was lost by the Amur leopard from 1970 to 1983. The list of the main causes of the incident includes random forest fires, the formation of agricultural land and the forest industry. However, the joyful moment is that the situation can still improve. At present, there remains a sufficient area of forest area, which is quite suitable for living of the Far Eastern leopard. Such a territory can still be protected from the harmful effects of humans and expand the animal population in the wild.
The overwhelming majority of the population currently lives in reserves and nurseries. In the wild conditions, unfortunately, there are already quite mature individuals that are unlikely to be able to produce strong and viable offspring.
In China, there are lands with a large area where the Far Eastern leopard can comfortably inhabit, but the main problem is that the food supply in this area is too scarce, it simply is not enough to maintain the large population at the right level.
The amount of small living creatures that are included in the diet of an animal can be increased if the use of woodland by the population living in close proximity to them is qualitatively and timely resolved. In addition, it is necessary to introduce effective measures to protect ungulates from the actions of poachers. In order for the Far Eastern leopard to survive, it will need to re-populate the terrain, which had once been its habitat.
The problem of poaching and illegal trade
For a long time, the Amur leopard has been pursued by poachers who hunt for its magnificent fur, adorned with spots. At the very end of the twentieth century, law enforcement officers conducted a major experiment. The skin of two Amur leopards was artificially recreated, which were later sold for a large amount of sun. Barabash, which is located near Kedrovaya Padi, is one of the reserves located in Russia.
The success of this experiment once again proves that there is a large amount of illegal markets in which products of this kind come true from the places where the population of protected animals lives. Spacious agricultural areas and small settlements surround the woodland where Far Eastern leopards live. Thus, a person has direct access to the forest. Due to this, poaching turns into a truly major problem, rather than in areas remote from human access. It is also worth noting that this is a common problem, as it affects not only the population of the Far Eastern leopard, but also a number of other animals that are being killed by the natives in order to get meat and money.
Conflict with man
The Far Eastern leopard has a high level of vulnerability, because a certain percentage of their diet consists in animals such as deer. In the Far Eastern part of Russia, the population of deer has significantly decreased, since in Asian medicine deer antlers have a high value. Thus, it becomes a serious obstacle for the leopard in obtaining the required amount of food.
The shortage of food leads to the fact that the Far Eastern leopard often visits the sites where reindeer herding is located. It is quite natural that the owners of this area in order to protect their own animals sometimes kill the Amur leopard.
In addition to all of the above, another common problem is the low population of the Amur leopard, as such. The bottom line is that the low number of animals makes the entire population extremely vulnerable and prone to a variety of natural phenomena or disasters.
This could include sudden and extensive fires in wooded massifs, certain diseases, a violation of the relationship between the birth of offspring and mortality of individuals. It also happens that for a certain number of years males are predominantly born in the offspring, therefore, the sex ratio is disturbed. Another factor is the so-called inbreeding depression. In the population of these animals, there are often related relationships of a related nature, so it is quite possible that genetic failures could be the consequence of this, among which can be attributed a decrease in the birth rate.
According to the research, in the period from 1973 to 1991, the average number of leopards born in offspring fell from 1.9 to 1, respectively.
Description of the Far Eastern Leopard
First, back in 1857, under the species name Felis orientalis, he was described by the German naturalist Hermann Schlegel, who studied the skin of the beast that was killed in Korea. The predator has many names - the Manchu (outdated) or Amur leopard, the Far Eastern or East Siberian leopard, and the Amur leopard. The modern Latin name Panthera pardus orientalis acquired its appearance in 1961 thanks to Ingrid Weigel.
The Far Eastern leopard is the most frost-resistant of almost 30 known subspecies of Panthera pardus, living just north of the 45th parallel. Once the range of the Amur leopard in the Far East covered almost the entire Sikhote-Alin range. At the beginning of the 20th century, the area of distribution of the Amur leopard included:
- East / Northeast China,
- Amur and Ussuri regions,
- Korean Peninsula.
Today, a rare beast is preserved in our country (on a strip 50–60 km wide) only in the south-west of Primorye, and, presumably, several individuals live in China, occasionally crossing the Russian-Chinese border.
Like most large predators, the Far Eastern leopard is not rigidly associated with one type of habitat, but prefers rugged terrain with steep hillsides with watersheds and rocky outcrops.
The Amur leopard often settles in rugged terrain with untouched coniferous-deciduous forests, among the oaks and cedar, where ungulates are found in abundance - its main prey.
Important! The trouble is that there are very few such forests in Primorye. Since the end of the last century, due to the laying of highways, the construction of cities and mass cuttings, the historic area of the Far Eastern leopard has decreased by 40 (!) Times.
Today, the leopard is squeezed from all sides (between the Chinese border, the sea, residential areas around Vladivostok and the Vladivostok-Khabarovsk highway, where the railway runs) and is forced to manage an isolated area of up to 400 hectares. Such is its modern range.
The diet of the Far Eastern leopard
The Amur leopard is a real predator, whose diet, mainly consisting of ungulates, is occasionally punctuated by birds and insects.
Leopard hunts for such game as:
Leopards are hostile to the owners of deer farms, where animals periodically penetrate, tearing up park deer.
It is interesting! An adult predator has 1 large ungulate for 12–15 days, but sometimes the interval between the capture of suitable prey is doubled, to 20–25 days. The beast learned to endure prolonged hunger strikes.
A leopard usually hunts at selected points in its plot, using 2 standard techniques: attacking from an ambush or hiding the victim. The second method is more often used for roes, concealing them when they feed or rest. Occur and group outings of female leopard with a brood. Tracking down the victim, the Amur leopard follows the terrain, hiding behind the elevations, without stepping on dry branches / leaves, carefully stepping on bare roots and stones.
Настигает дичь резким рывком либо мощным 5–6 метровым прыжком, заваливая ее на землю и перекусывая шейные позвонки. За животными долго не гоняется, прекращая преследование, если они оторвались на короткой дистанции. При удачной охоте леопард затаскивает тушу (защищая от падальщиков) в скальные расщелины или на деревья, поедая ее несколько дней.
In the feces of a leopard, cereals are often found (up to 7.6%), which is explained by their ability to remove hair from the digestive tract that enters the stomach when licking fur.
Reproduction and offspring
Far Eastern leopard rutting is timed to winter (December – January). At this time, the males show great interest in females that have adult, almost independent kittens. Like all cats, the rut is accompanied by roars and fights of males (although the leopard, more silent against the background of a lion and a tiger, rarely gives voice at other times).
The reproductive abilities of the Amur leopard are limited by several factors explaining the polygamous nature of males:
- the female becomes pregnant once every 3 years (less often once a year),
- in 80% of cases, 1-2 babies appear,
- a small number of females capable of breeding,
- high mortality of young stock.
3 months after successful mating, the female brings spotted long-haired kittens, each of which weighs 0.5–0.7 kg with a length of no more than 15 cm. Broods see the light for 7–9 days, and already for 12–15 days the young actively crawl along the lair, arranged by the female in a cave, under an overhanging rock or in a rocky ruin.
Important! The mother feeds the kittens with milk from 3 to 5–6 months, but at 6–8 weeks she begins to lure them with belching (half-digested meat), gradually accustoming them to fresh.
By 2 months, small leopards crawl out of the den, and at 8 months they follow their mother in search of food, deciding on independent excursions at 9-10 months of age. Young animals stay with the mother until her next estrus, uniting to the end of winter in groups when the female leaves them. At first, they wander not far from the lair, gradually moving further and further away from it. Young males show independence before their sisters, but the latter are ahead of the brothers in puberty. Fertility of males occurs at about 2–3 years.
Most of all, the Far Eastern leopard fears its close relative and neighbor in the area, the Amur tiger, with whom it prefers not to get involved. Both cats intensely compete for the hunting territory on the northern border of the range, where game is in short supply, and the leopard in this interspecific struggle loses the tiger.
Cases of attacks on leopards of the Amur tigers have been recorded, and the exodus of the first from the South Sikhote-Alin zoologists directly associated with the expansion of the tiger population in these places. On the one hand, the tiger is more than a leopard and hunts large animals, but, on the other hand, with a shortage of food, it doesn’t seem like much fun, which leads to an aggravation of food competition.
It is known that the leopard’s trophies are attacked (more often in hungry winters) by brown bears stalking and taking away their prey. Also, the brown bear, like the Himalayan, competes with the Amur leopard when searching for a lair. True, the leopard takes revenge on the Himalayan bears, harvesting motherless cubs, attacking the young (up to 2 years) and even eating carrion (bear carcasses).
It is interesting! According to zoologists, at one time a red wolf, which lived in the south of the Primorsky Territory until the 1950s and 1960s, was a serious threat to the Far Eastern leopard.
The wolf, also a great lover of ungulates, mostly roe deer, is also considered a food competitor of the leopard. A wolf, as a pack and large beast, could be a real danger (especially where there are few trees), but the wolf population is small in areas inhabited by the Amur leopard.
As a result, not a single predator (except for the Amur tiger) coexisting with the Far Eastern leopard does not have a noticeable effect on its population.
Population and species status
Panthera pardus orientalis (Far Eastern leopard) is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, where it is included in Category I, as the rarest and most endangered subspecies (whose main population is in Russia) with an extremely limited range. In addition, the Amur leopard has got into the pages of the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as well as in Annex I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna / Flora (CITES).
Despite the fact that hunting for leopards has been banned since 1956, its poaching prey continues and is considered the main reason for the disappearance of the species. Predators are shot for their excellent skins, sold at 500-1000 dollars apiece, and internal organs used in oriental medicine.
Important! Amur leopards are ruthlessly killed and the owners of deer farms, whose deer occasionally become victims of sneaky cats. Leopards themselves often die in loops and traps set by hunters on other forest animals.
Another anthropogenic factor hindering the preservation of the population of the Far Eastern leopard is the destruction of its habitat in the south-west of Primorye, including:
- reduction of forest area due to cutting,
- construction of roads and railways
- construction of pipelines
- the emergence of residential and industrial buildings,
- construction of other infrastructure facilities.
Also, the number of Far Eastern leopards is negatively affected by the destruction of its food supply. The hoofed bodies year by year become less and less, aided by sport hunting, poaching and forest fires. In this regard, only spotted deer are pleased, whose livestock, since 1980, has grown.
Zoologists call another objective circumstance that reflects badly on the quality of the Amur leopard population - this is a closely related interbreeding. Leopards (due to the small number of fertile individuals) have to mate with their blood relatives, which impairs the reproductive abilities of new generations, reduces their resistance to disease and vitality in general.
It is interesting! According to the most optimistic estimates, the number of the world population of the Far Eastern leopard does not exceed 40 animals, most of which live in Primorye (about 30) and smaller - in China (no more than 10).
At present, the Amur leopard is guarded in the Leopard reserve and the Kedrovaya Pad reserve.