Panthera pardus orientalis
Description: The Amur leopard is adapted to the cool climate by having thick fur which grows up to 7.5 cm long in winter. For camouflage in the snow their coat is paler than other leopard subspecies. The Amur leopard’s rosettes are widely spaced and larger than those seen on other leopards. Their tongue has tiny rasps or hooks, called denticles, which are used to scrape the meat off of the bones of their prey.
Weight: Males generally weigh 32-48 kg, but can weigh up to 75 kg. Females are smaller than the males at 25-43 kg.
Breeding: Females first breed at an age of 3-4 years. After a gestation period of around 12 weeks, cubs are born in litters of 1-4 individuals, with an average litter size of just over 2. The cubs stay with their mother for up to two years before becoming fully independent. Amur leopards in zoos show some evidence of breeding seasonality with a peak in births in late spring/early summer.
Longevity: In the wild, leopards live for 10-15 years and they may reach 20 years in captivity.
Prey: Amur leopards hunt a very wide variety of animals including roe deer, sika deer, badgers and hares.
Hunting Habits: Amur leopards normally hunt at night and need large territories to avoid competition for prey. They silently watch their prey and ambush them using a burst of energy reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. They then carry and hide unfinished kills, sometimes up trees, so that they are not taken by other predators.
Location and Habitat
Habitat: Amur leopards live in the temperate forests of Far Eastern Russia, experiencing harsh winters with extreme cold and deep snow, as well as hot summers.
Location: They are found in Southwest Primorye in the Russian Far East, and along the Russian border with Heilongjiang Province and Jilin Province in North East China. It is possible that a few leopards also exist in North Korea, but so far we have not been able to survey this area.
The Amur leopard is the northernmost of all leopard subspecies. Its historic range extended throughout northeastern (“Manchurian”) China, the southern part of Primorsky Krai in Russia and the Korean Peninsula. This range shrank dramatically during the 20th century, due primarily to habitat loss and hunting.
At the turn of the 20th century the leopard was still found throughout much of southern Primorsky Krai. The first reliable estimate of leopard numbers in Russia was made by Dmitry Pikunov and Vladimir Abramov in the winter of 1972-1973. By this time, the population in Primorye had already contracted from one contiguous population into three isolated ones and there were an estimated 38 to 46 Amur leopards remaining in Russia, many of which depended upon habitat on both sides of the Russian-Chinese border. A 1985 survey suggested that leopards had disappeared from the area southwest of Lake Khanka and from southern Sikhote-Alin. The leopard population in southwest Primorye remained approximately the same as the 1972 survey, 25 to 30 animals. A more recent count in the 1990-1991 winter revealed the population size in southwest Primorye to be stable at 30 to 36 animals, if migrants to and from China were included. The most recent results from population monitoring in 2011 suggests there are now approximately 40 individuals and surveys due to be carried out in China in 2012 will give more accurate numbers for the leopards living in that region.
The Amur leopard probably went extinct in the wild in South Korea in the late 1960s, although some recent, unconfirmed reports suggest that a few leopards may remain in and around the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. There are likely still leopards in the rugged northern region of North Korea near the Chinese border, and it is also likely that animals from Southwest Primorye in Russia occasionally cross the border into North Korea, but reliable information is lacking.
Competition: Although in other regions it seems leopards do not do well in areas where they share territory with tigers, this has not proved to be the case in Russia. Studies have indicated that an increased tiger population in the Southwest Primorye area has not adversely affected the leopard population.
With a wild population of less than 40 individuals, the Amur leopard is critically endangered and this is mostly as a result of human activities.
The main threats to the Amur leopard’s survival are:
ALTA is working hard to reduce these threats by funding appropriate conservation projects and educating and informing people about the importance of the Amur leopard and tiger.
Zoo Support: There are approximately 200 Amur leopards in captivity, mostly in zoos in Europe, North America and countries of the former Soviet Union. Most, but not all, of these leopards are in zoos participating in managed conservation breeding programmes. Some of these leopards may be involved in the proposed Reintroduction plan which would hopefully take place in Lazovsky Nature Reserve in Southern Sikhote Alin.
Amur Leopard Conservation Activities:
Read full details on the conservation projects we are supporting in 2013 here.
Conservation activities for both Amur tigers and leopards, which ALTA support include: