The Amur leopard is probably the only large cat for which a reintroduction program using zoo stock is considered a necessary conservation action with some prospect of taking place in the near future.
A reintroduction plan has been prepared by local and international experts, including Lazovsky Zapovednik, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Primorski Krai Administration, WCS, ZSL and WWF amongst others. Given political support and the necessary funding, it is possible that in 1-2 years from now preparations in the field (building of holding facilities and other infrastructure) will have begun.
The releases would take place in the Lazovsky Nature Reserve in Southern Sikhote Alin, an area where leopards disappeared approximately 30 years ago. It is unknown what caused the local extinction in this area, but circumstances have improved since that time, as a result of an increase in suitable prey (especially sika deer).
With improved conservation in both Russia and China, we could expect an increase in the present population in the wild from 70 animals to approximately 90 animals in 15-20 years. We hope a second population of at least 30 animals will also have been established by that time.
Amur Leopard Reintroduction
The draft reintroduction plan can be read here: