With only around 100 individuals left in the wild, Amur leopards are critically endangered. Once found throughout China, Russia, and Korea, populations have been decimated by habitat loss and poaching.
Poached to the Brink
Like their African cousins, Amur leopards are poached for their stunning coats, which can sell for thousands of dollars on the black market. Unlike their African cousins, Amur leopards have thick, dense fur that can be up to 3 inches long, which keeps them warm through harsh winters and deep snow. Their pale coats are patterned with large, widely spaced rosettes, or spots.
Once found throughout Russia, China, and Korea, Amur leopards now only inhabit the forests of the Russian Far East, along the Russian-Chinese border. Territorial and solitary, Amur leopards only come together to mate, and an individual leopard's range can cover more than 100 square miles.
More than 80% of Amur leopard forests have been burned down to clear the land for farming, mining, roads, railways, pipelines, and other developments. As more and more forests are cleared, the leopards are restricted to smaller areas of usable habitat. Preferring to avoid people and open land, they struggle to find safe places to hunt, den, and raise cubs.
No Food to be Found
Amur leopards hunt deer, wild boar, hare, and small birds and mammals, but when so much forest habitat is destroyed, these prey populations disappear, too. With food sources already limited, the big cats also have to contend with human hunters. Surrounded by villages, and not far from major cities, the remaining forests are easily accessible to people, who compete with the leopards for game.
The bright spot: If forests and prey populations can recover, Amur leopards have a chance at a comeback.
You Can Help
Wild cats around the world are in danger of disappearing forever. Wildlife trafficking, habitat loss, and deadly conflicts with people have devastated cat populations, bringing many species to the brink of extinction, but you can save them.
With your support, we can protect wild cats worldwide and halt their decline. Your tax-deductible donation to the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy will help save wild cats around the world.
photo credits | all images iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images | hero image, Amur leopard in vines and foliage: RobFranklin | Amur leopard stalking through snow: User10095428_393 | Amur leopard crossing stream on log: Dee Carpenter Photography | Amur leopard close-up, looking off into distance: AlanJeffery | Amur leopard cub: RobFranklin | Amur leopard sitting among tall trees: Tom Brakefield