A finalised census of the Amur leopard, the world’s rarest big cat, in the Russian Far East has detected 48-50 individuals; the minimum number of leopards was determined as 43-45 individual adults and 4-5 cubs. Although the population is 1.5 times larger than five years ago, 50 animals is still a critically small number for the long term survival of the Amur leopard.
Further good news is that three years ago a lonely male left his tracks on the territory of Poltavsky Provincial Wildlife Refuge to the north of the Krounovka river and this winter a female with a cub was found in the area.
One of the litters found during the survey was in an area where leopards were previously unrecorded: in the reeds and shrubs of a river delta.
One of the leopards was found on the border with North Korea where no leopards have been observed for a century.
The winter census also revealed 23 Amur tigers, double the number compared to five years ago. It is believed the differing habitat preferences allow the leopards and tigers to coexist, however, due to the replacement of red deer by sika deer and low wild boar populations, the prey base of tigers and leopards in south-west Primorye has begun to overlap more and more. In such conditions, competition between the two rare big cats may become an issue.
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