Amur leopard facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Amur leopard
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: Panthera pardus
Trinomial name
Panthera pardus orientalis
Area of distribution
Synonyms

Panthera pardus amurensis

The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a leopard subspecies. It is sometimes called the far eastern leopard.

The leopard lives in the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and in the Jilin Province of northeast China. It is critically endangered (IUCN). Only 14–20 adults and 5–6 cubs were counted in 2007. Only 19–26 Amur leopards live in the wild.

The Amur leopards are endangered because they have been hunted for their fur. Amur leopards can be recognized from the patterns in their fur. They weigh about 70 to 105 pounds (32 to 48 kg). They live in temperate, broadleaf and mixed forests.

The Amur leopard is also known as the Far Eastern leopard.

Characteristics

Amoer panter (4106664995) (2)
The close-up of face at Diergaarde Blijdorp

Amur leopards differ from other subspecies by a thick coat of spot-covered fur. They show the strongest and most consistent divergence in pattern. Leopards from the Amur River basin, the mountains of north-eastern China and the Korean Peninsula have pale, cream-colored coats, particularly in winter. Rosettes on the flanks are 5 cm × 5 cm (2.0 in × 2.0 in) and widely spaced, up to 2.5 cm (0.98 in), with thick, unbroken rings and darkened centers.

Amur Leopard Panthera pardus orientalis Facing Forward 1761px
An Amur leopard walking forward at Philadelphia Zoo

Their coat is fairly soft with long and dense hair. The length of hair on the back is 20–25 mm (0.79–0.98 in) in summer and up to 70 mm (2.8 in) in winter. The winter coat varies from fairly light yellow to dense yellowish-red with a golden tinge or rusty-reddish-yellow. The summer pelage is brighter with more vivid coloration pattern. Compared with other leopard subspecies, they are rather small in size, with males larger than females. Males measure from 107 to 136 cm (42 to 54 in) with a 82 to 90 cm (32 to 35 in) long tail, a shoulder height of 64 to 78 cm (25 to 31 in), and a weight of 32.2–48 kg (71–106 lb). Females weigh from 25 to 42.5 kg (55 to 94 lb).

Amur leopards have long limbs and are well adapted to walking through deep snow.

Distribution and habitat

Hermann Schlegel first described an Amur leopard in 1857 on the basis of a skin from Korea. The Amur leopard is the only Panthera pardus subspecies adapted to a cold snowy climate. Fossils of leopards from the Pleistocene period have been excavated in Japan, although identification of the species is uncertain.

Previous population and distribution

The distribution of the Amur leopard has been reduced to a fraction of its original range. It once extended throughout northeastern ("Manchurian") China, including Jilin and Heilongjiang Provinces, and throughout the Korean Peninsula. The species range in Russia was dramatically reduced during the seventies, losing about 80% of its former range.

Current population and distribution

Today, the Amur leopard inhabits about 5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi). The last remaining viable wild population, estimated at 57 individuals, is found in a small area in the Russian Province of Primorsky Krai, between Vladivostok and the Chinese border. In adjacent China, 7-12 scattered individuals are estimated to remain. In South Korea, the last record of an Amur leopard dates back to 1969, when a leopard was captured on the slopes of Odo Mountain, in South Gyeongsang Province.

Leopards cross between Russia, China, and North Korea across the Tumen River despite a high and long wire fence marking the boundary. Ecological conditions along the border in the mountains are not yet monitored. In China, Amur leopards were photographed by camera traps in Wangqing and Hunchun, east Jilin Province, China. The only official North Korean government webportal reported in 2009 that some leopards were in Myohyangsan Nature Reserve located in Hyangsan County. It is likely the southernmost living group of Amur leopard.

Amur leopard numbers have been reduced via over hunting of prey and poaching combined with habitat loss from agricultural and urban development. However, both camera-trapping and snow-tracking surveys indicate that the population has been stable over the last 30 years, but with a high rate of turnover of individuals. If appropriate conservation actions are taken, there is great potential for increasing population size, increasing survival rates and habitat recovery in both Russia and China.

Ecology and behavior

Amur leopards are crepuscular and usually start hunting shortly before sunset. They are active again in the early mornings. During the day, they rest and hide in caves or dense thickets, but rarely hunt. They are solitary, unless females have offspring.

They are extremely conservative in their choice of territory. An individual's territory is usually located in a river basin which generally extends to the natural topographical borders of the area. The territory of two individuals may sometimes overlap, but only slightly. Depending on sex, age, and family size, the size of an individual's territory can vary from 5,000–30,000 ha (19–116 sq mi). They may use the same hunting trails, routes of constant migration, and even places for extended rest constantly over the course of many years. At places where wild animals are abundant, leopards live permanently or perform only vertical migrations, trailing herds of ungulates and avoiding snow. In the Ussuri region the main prey of leopards are roe and sika deer, Manchurian wapiti, musk deer, moose, and wild pig. More rarely they catch hare, badger, fowl, and mice. In Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve roe deer is their main prey year-round, but they also prey on young Eurasian black bears less than two years old.

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Amur Leopard At the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans

When density of ungulates is low, leopards have large home ranges that can be up to 100 km2 (39 sq mi).

During a study of radio-collared Amur leopards in the early 1990s, a territorial dispute between two males at a deer farm was documented, suggesting that deer farms are favoured habitats. Female leopards with cubs are relatively often found in the proximity of deer farms. The large number of domestic deer is a reliable food source that may help to survive difficult times.

They can run at 37 mi (60 km) per hour

Reproduction

Sexual maturity sets in at the age of 2–3 years and ability to reproduce continues up to 10–15 years of age.

The weight of a newborn cub is 500–700 g (1.1–1.5 lb). The young open their eyes on the 7th–10th day and begin to crawl on the 12th–15th day. By the second month they emerge from their dens and also begin to eat meat. Cubs begin to be weaned at three months and taught to hunt. Lactation continues for five or six months. Cubs reach independence at approximately two to three years old. They stay with their mother until they are around eighteen months to two years in age.

Amur leopards breed in spring and early summer. The breeding season is in the late winter months, usually around January or February.

Breeding can take place year-round, and average litter size is 2-3 cubs. Amur leopards can live up to 20 years in captivity, but the average lifespan in the wild is unknown.

Threats

Amur leopards are threatened by poaching, encroaching civilisation, new roads, poaching of prey, forest fires, inbreeding, possible coexisting with disease carriers and transmitters, and exploitation of forests.

Due to the small number of reproducing Amur leopards in the wild, the gene pool is so reduced that the population is at risk from inbreeding depression.

Tigers can eliminate leopards if densities of large and medium-sized prey species are low. Competition between these predators supposedly decreases in summer, when small prey species are more available. In winter, conditions are less favorable for tigers and the extent of trophic niche overlap with that of Amur leopards probably reaches its peak.

Conservation

Darla
Amur leopard Darla in the Tallinn Zoo

The Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA) is an initiative of Russian and western conservation organisations to conserve the Amur leopard and Amur tiger, and secure a future for both species in the Russian Far East and Northeast China.

An oil pipeline planned to be built through leopard habitat was rerouted, following a campaign by conservationists.

Reintroduction into the wild

Since 1996, the idea of reintroducing leopards in the south of Sikhote-Alin has been discussed by ALTA members.

Patches of potential leopard habitat as potential reintroduction sites were identified in the southern Sikhote-Alin. Three coastal potential habitat patches could harbour approximately 72 adult leopards.

Amur leopards are top predators which means they play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of species within their habitat. This in turn influences the condition of the forest and overall ecosystem – which supplies both nature and people with food, freshwater and many other resources.

In captivity

Leopard in the Colchester Zoo
Young Amur leopard in the Colchester Zoo
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Amur leopard with cub in the Minnesota Zoo

A captive population of Amur leopards was established in 1961 from nine wild-born founders.

As of December 2011, 173 captive Amur leopards are in zoos worldwide. Within the EESP, 54 male, 40 female and 7 unsexed individuals are kept. In American and Canadian zoos, another 31 males and 41 females are kept within the Population Management Program.

In China, another Amur leopard captive population is in Beijing Zoo, the founders of which were from North Korea.


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