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Rare, Beautiful, and Vulnerable

The biggest threat to the vast array of animals on the planet is humans. Animals would thrive if humans didn’t populate a large part of the planet. There wouldn’t be any extinct, endangered, or threatened species. Naturally, predators are a part of the ecosystem, but it would be impossible for a single predator species to wipe out the population of their prey significantly or entirely. Every wild animal is considered a predator or prey species, except humans. Humans take it upon themselves to become predators that prey on wild animals and the environment. The creation of this role has impacted several species around the world, including the Amur Leopard.


Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) have been classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1996. This species was once dispersed in Northern China, Russia Far East, and the Korean Peninsula. Today, they are mainly found in only two locations on the planet, Primorsky Krai in Russia and the Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces in China. Typically, they avoid laying on flat ground and prefer resting on hills or mid-leveled areas. During the winter months, they usually rest on slopes that are rocks and face south to avoid falling snow. Scientists often refer to them as the “silent killer” due to their stealthy way of approaching prey that often is larger than the leopard itself. Considered an “apex predator” specifically to their native locations, they successfully keep the ecosystem balanced preventing the overpopulation of several species both plants and animals. In 2020, the IUCN reported there were approximately 60 Amur leopards remaining in the wild. The European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA), Eurasian Regional Association of Zoos and Aquariums (ERAZA), European Endangered Species Program (EEP), Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) came together to form the Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) in 2013. The goal of the GSMP is to partner with Russia and create a new population of Amur leopards in the southern region of Sikhote-Alin. In July 2018, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) reported 88 institutions were homes to 217 Amur leopards.


Poaching is the biggest threat to many species including Amur leopards. In Russia, hunting for food and recreation is popular in Primorsky Krai specifically in the cities of Vladivostok and Ussurisk. Because their fur is unique, Amur leopards often are included in the illegal wildlife trade. In 1999, an investigation was conducted after a female Amur leopard pelt was sold for $500 and a male pelt was sold for $1000 in Barabash, Russia which is near thKedrovaya Pad reserve. In China, leopard bones are placed in “rice wine” to create medicinal treatments for a variety of health conditions. In addition to poaching, In Russia and China, forest fires, construction, and other new infrastructure developments contributed to habitat loss. The global range of the species drastically changed from 139,674 square miles to 27,888 square miles. As a result, prey sources begin becoming scarce and harder to find. Siberian tigers and Amur leopards shortly began sharing the same habitat range. Competition and a predator-prey relationship sparked between the two species, especially during winter months. The species face another threat to their population due to Siberian tigers lurking nearby.



The Tiger Century and the Amur Leopard Tiger Alliance merged in 2018 to form WildCats Conservation Alliance. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation (DWF) helped pursue the mission to protect and save wild Amur tigers and leopards. Out of the five regions involved in conservation efforts, the two current projects are in China and Russia. Projects involve community awareness, mitigating conflict between humans and wildlife, prevention of forest fires, species protection, and population monitoring. Accredited zoos help with research, financials, breeding programs, and awareness. 


Supporters of WildCats Conservation Alliance in the United States:

·      Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

·      Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

·      Utah’s Hoggle Zoo

·      Indianapolis Zoo

·      Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

·      New Mexico Biopark Safari

·      Potawatomi Zoo

·      Sedgwick County Zoo

·      Staten Island Zoo

·      Audubon Nature Institute

·      Brookfield Zoo

·      Minnesota Zoo Foundation

·      Memphis Zoo and Memphis AAZK

·      Santa Barbara Zoo

·      Lee Richardson Zoo

·      Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

·      Niabi Zoo

·      Staten Island Zoo

·      Erie Zoo

·      Greenville Zoo

·      Omaha Zoo

·      Rosamond Gifford Zoo

·      Cincinnati Zoo

·      Racine Zoo

·      Seneca Park Zoo


Edited by: Kavya Venkateshwaran

Photo by: BigCatsWildCats

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