Sunday, July 18, 2010

Amur Leopard

Panthera parus orientalis is the rarest cat in the world. There are only an estimated 30-40 left in the wild. Amur Leopards are a leopard subspecies that is native to the temperate forests of far eastern Russia and China. They are distinguishable from other leopards by their longer coats and widely spaced, thick bordered spots.

Image from ALTA
Amur Leopards are solitary animals. Males and females come together to breed, but only rarely does the male stick around to help raise the cubs. Cubs will stay with their mother, learning how to hunt and survive, for up to two years. Amur Leopards eat mostly Sika and Roe deer, as well as small mammals.

Even though captive breeding programs exist, the gene pool is not the purest. Accidental Interbreeding between other leopard subspecies had taken place at the start of the captive program, making few of the captive leopards truly purebred. Genetic diversity is also (obviously) threatened in the wild populations, as the few remaining cats only have each other to breed with.

Amur Leopards became so critically endangered due to human activities. Habitat destruction, logging, and poaching for their beautiful coats has left the cats where they are today. Efforts have been made by ALTA, and over a dozen agencies worldwide to protect and conserve the Amur Leopards. Unfortunately, illegal hunting is still happening.

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