Scientists to conduct “census” of Far East leopards
Russian scientists have managed to prevent the extinction of Far East (Amur) leopards. For the first time in recent years the population of these rare big cats has increased. In late January, in the south of Primorye (Russia’s Far East region) a new census of Amur leopards will be conducted. Last time it was conducted 6 years ago.
The preservation of Far East leopard, which was introduced into the Book of Endangered Species, is an international concern. The situation with Far East leopard can be called catastrophic. In the last 20 years its habitat has almost twice reduced while the population has reduced by ten times. According to experts, today it is almost impossible to come across Amur leopard in the Far Eastern taiga. A constant control has been conducted over these rare wild cats, Sergey Aramilev, Species Program Coordinator At Amur Branch, World Wildlife Fund, says.
Every spring we conduct a monitoring using automatic photo cameras. This kind of work has been conducted since 2002. Its data shows that the number of leopards is stable and there are some trends towards the increase. At least on the territory where static photo cameras have been installed leopard population is growing.
Classic method of fixation and analysis of animal traces on snow can provide a more precise picture. This work requires about 100 workers of different research organizations, Aramilev continues.
"This work implies that about 120 routes each 15 km long will cover the whole territory of the habitat. The main task is to track all the routes simultaneously. If one day is not enough it should be done in no longer than in 2-3 days. This is required for obtaining an instant cross section of traces along the whole area of leopard habitat."
In early January, scientists conducted a preliminary registration of the number of leopards in the Land of the Leopard national park. The new national park was opened in 2012 to protect critically endangered Siberian (Amur) tigers and the Far East leopard The Land of the Leopard National Park safeguards 1,011 square miles of leopard and tiger habitat.
However good protection from poaching is not enough for the restoration of leopard population. To increase the number of these big cats it is necessary to recreate the natural conditions of their habitat, director of the International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW) Maria Vorontsova says.
"In order to let leopards spread across the whole habitat it is necessary to create migration passes for them. They should migrate to the north of the Far East region to occupy the lands where they lived before but today it impossible because the Vladivostok-Khabarovsk highway divides the northern and southern parts of the habitat. The protection of the territory and fighting poaching are also very important."
According to preliminary data at present about 50 species of Far East leopard are living on the territory of the reserve but the exact number can be announced only after the results of the January census are summed up. A similar “census” will be conducted on the border with China. The biologists from the Hunchun reserve visited in the Land of the Leopard and studied the method of defining the exact number of rare species.