Amur Leopards, the most endangered leopards of the world are growing in numbers according to a new population survey that was carried out for the first time at Northeast China’s Jilin Province. The census showed that the population of the leopards had almost doubled in the province.
The first-ever survey conducted in the area showed that the leopard was also expanding its territory with traces of the wild cat found in a much larger area than before. The leopard has been found in and outside of northeast China’s Hunchun and Wangqing Nature Reserves, covering about 4100km2, an area similar in size to French Polynesia according to WWF.
“The Amur leopard is critically endangered, and this research into population monitoring, habitat restoration and population migration characteristics is urgent for the survival of the species,” said the head of WWF-China’s Northeast Programme Office, Dr Zhu Jiang.
Less than 50 Amur leopards are known to exist in the world with their habitat spread over Northeast China and Russian Far East. These cats are even more endangered than the Amur Tigers.
In 1998-99 when population survey of the tigers was done, the Amur leopard population was also observed. The experts have thus found by comparing the two surveys that the leopard’s habitat had increased 3-4 times and its population too had increased 1.8 times. The distribution area in China expanded further to the northwest of Jilin province and towards the Sino-Russian border in the east.
According to Dr. Zhu Jiang, “The results of this new survey show even more clearly that the Hunchun-Wangqing habitat is an important one for the Amur leopard, and that the nearby Changbai Mountain leopard population is essential to support the continued survival of the Russian Far East population group. The two areas are indispensible to the recovery of the global Amur leopard population, and are the greatest hope for expanding both the population and the habitat of the species.”
This is the first time such an effort has been taken by China to exclusively carry out a census for the Amur Leopards. The Jilin province forest department is now set to cover a larger area using infrared camera traps and DNA monitoring technology.
Says Senior Engineer and Tiger-Leopard Programme Officer Jiang Jinsong,
“Based on the results of this survey, the first trial areas will be the Hunchun and Wangqing reserves, where constant collection of information on individuals as well as monitoring of activity patterns among the general population will serve to build up a core of information on the settled Amur leopard and Siberian tiger populations.”
WWF will continue to work with the Jilin Forestry Department, Hunchun Nature Reserve and Wangqing Forestry Bureau to assess habitat quality, analyse the number of the leopards and work on increasing prey species. The organization will also help with anti-paoching measures and technological support to ensure that the increasing numbers of the rare leopard are maintained.