Amur Leopard Conservation
To promote the survival of Amur leopards in China and Russia both in situ and ex situ
The Amur Leopard or Far Eastern Leopard, Panthera pardus orientalis,
with a total wild population of 30-35 individuals, is one of the most -
if not the most - endangered large cat on earth. There is an ex situ
insurance population of about 180 individuals in zoos. The European
Breeding Programme (EEP) is coordinated by Sarah Christie, London, and
Tanya Arzhanova, Moscow.
Significant progress in conserving Amur tigers and leopards has been made over the last decade. A coalition of 13 international and Russian NGOs have pooled resources to help create ALTA. ALTA members have been co-operating for many years in developing, financing and implementing conservation projects in Russia and China. The main anti-poaching team has been operating in the Amur leopard's range since 1998 and was the first conservation project for Amur leopards financed by NGOs. The team has been very successful and poaching has been much reduced.
ALTA has been working to provide equipment to repair the firebreak system around the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve ‘Kedrovaya Pad’. Fires reduce forest habitat, replacing it with grasslands that Amur leopards avoid. ALTA has also implemented a large number of educational projects and has been very successful in increasing conservation awareness among local villagers.
In order to realise plans to conserve and recover leopards in Russia and China, and to successfully establish a second wild leopard population, we need to learn much more about how leopards live in the wild, including how to increase their survival rates, whether in-breeding is a health risk, and how leopards interact with tigers.
There is great potential to increase the leopard population across the border in Northeast China, where efforts are underway to support the Hunchun Tiger Leopard Reserve, improve anti-poaching, increase local capacity to monitor leopards, and implement education programmes.
Zoos can contribute to the survival of the Amur leopard by participating in coordinated ex situ breeding programmes, raising awareness, carrying out or enhancing research, and financially contributing to in situ conservation efforts.
WAZA Conservation Project 08015 undertakes regular fundraising activity and raises awareness for the Amur Leopards through its charitable arm ‘Friends of Paradise Wildlife Park' (FoPWP). The Wildlife Heritage Foundation (WHF) has recently completed a purpose built breeding facility. Dr John Lewis is taking the lead on the co-operation and monitoring of the situation in the wild; he regularly travels to the Russian Fareast liaising with our counterparts, to provide veterinary expertise, undertake sampling, radio collaring and to monitor prey species. Dr John Lewis also works very closely with The Wildlife Heritage Foundation monitoring blood, hair semen from their Amur leopards.
Peter Sampson, Director and Owner of Paradise Wildlife Park and Chair of Trustees of The wildlife Heritage Foundation takes a personal interest to ensure that both organisations are at the forefront of the Amur Leopard Project. They are providing support and co-ordinating efforts to maintain an Amur leopard population in captivity which will enable the possible re-introduction back into the wild in the future. Safari Beekse Bergen (The Netherlands) also supports this project.
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