Just 84 Amur Leopards Remain In The Wild

An international team of scientists has used camera traps on both sides of the border of China and Russia to obtain the most updated estimate of the Amur leopard population.

AsianScientist (Jul. 23, 2018) – Researchers in China, Russia and the US report in Conservation Letters that there are only 84 remaining wild Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis).

The Amur leopard is a critically endangered species that roams the southernmost border of Primorskii province, Russia and Jilin province, China. In the present study, the researchers collated information from camera traps on both sides of the border of China and Russia to derive an updated estimate of the number of living members of this species.

Previous studies in Russia counted only 25 to 50 individuals in the Amur leopard population. However, those surveys, based on tracks left in the snow, were extremely difficult to interpret due to the unclear relationship between the number of tracks and the number of individuals.

With camera traps, each individual can be identified by its unique spot pattern, providing a much more precise estimate. Surprisingly, about one-third of the leopards were photographed on both sides of the Sino-Russian border.

“We knew that leopards moved across the border, but only by combining data were we able to understand how much movement there really is,” said Dr. Anya Vitkalova, a biologist at Land of the Leopard National Park in Russia who is one of the two lead authors of the publication.

Despite the movement, there were differences in population dynamics in Russia versus China. The researchers found that the leopards are currently dispersing from the Russian side to recolonize habitat in China. Because of these transboundary movements of leopards, simply adding up the results from both sides would have resulted in inaccuracies in the estimation of the remaining population.

“This first rigorous estimate of the global population of the Amur leopard represents an excellent example of the value of international collaboration. The trust and goodwill generated by this joint effort lays the foundation for future transboundary conservation actions,” said Dr. Dale Miquelle, a co-author on the study and Tiger Program Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The article can be found at: Vitkalova et al. (2018) Transboundary Cooperation Improves Endangered Species Monitoring and Conservation Actions: A Case Study of the Global Population of Amur Leopards.


Source: Wildlife Conservation Society; Photo: Emmanual Rondeau.
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