Wednesday 10 December 2008

Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard
Amur Leopard -- photo by ucumari -- this photographer is very good. He takes the best photographs of captive wild animals that I have seen. See, for example, the Wild Cougar page. This cat has a particularly beautiful coat. This perhaps escalated its demise.

What prompted me to make a posting about this handsome wildcat (and all the wildcats are handsome mainly because of their coats, although the smaller wildcats have coats similar to tabby domestic cats) was a story in the newspaper about captive Amur Leopard kittens at a reserve in England, called the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, located in Smarden, Kent.

Here is a video of them:

This leopard's natural habitat is a forest region in the Russian Far East, known as Primorskii Krai. It is where the river Amur flows, hence the name of the leopard.

Sadly, as usual, loss of habitat due to commercial human activity has caused this wildcat to become almost extinct in the wild. This is a very common scenario throughout the world and particularly in the East. Russia has shown a distinct lack of commitment to the preservation of wild species that by sheer ill fortune and bad luck happen to live there. It could be argued that the current President of Russia, Putin, is at least in part (perhaps a major part) to blame.

The Amur Leopard is ranked as Critically Endangered by IUCN Red List -- see IUCN Red List for Cats for a list of wildcats and their status under this listing.

I am convinced that in the future (for some wildcats, in the not too distant future) a significant number of wildcat species are only going to exist in captivity. Why? Because it is the only way humans can find a balance with nature. Wildcats and other species, no matter how precious and attractive they may be considered, simply get in the way of commerce. This includes deforestation and mining, as examples, that occur in Eastern Russia. Wildcat habitat gets cut up by commercial activity leaving small pockets of usable habitat for the wildcat and where the low populations of wildcats are trapped and are therefore unable to sustain viable populations due to inbreeding.

Between 1970 - 1983, apparently, 80% of the Amur Leopard's habitat was lost. In the 1970s in Russia, 70% of the Amur Leopard's range was lost due to habitat destruction for commercial reasons. Add to habitat destruction by the ever voracious human, poaching and sport hunting and the very existence of this animal becomes doubtful. There is also an indirect impact when sport hunters kill the prey of the Amur Leopard, roe and sika deer.

Underpinning all this, indeed I suppose encouraging it, are Russian politicians led by Putin. There is a distinct lack of commitment to save this wildcat. For example, soon after Putin took office the State Committee for Nature Conservation was abolished. Conservation went downhill from there.

The Amur Leopard's habitat also extends into China and we know about the animal rights/conservation record of China. For those who don't we only have to look at the horrendous bile bear business to remind ourselves of some of the barbarity that is perpetrated in China against animals not to mention the cat meat market.

Another beautiful wildcat, the White Siberian Tiger, suffers the same loss of habitat and consequential population reduction and is also nearing extinction in the wild.

Very late in the day conservation measures are being taken but the initiatives for these seem to largely originate outside of Russia and China. The above mentioned captive breeding program being one example. This, though, is captive Amur Leopard conservation. There is no chance that the cubs born in captivity in England will be relocated into the wild. In fact, there seems little chance of rectifying the damage done to the habitat at this stage. It would seem that we (the world) have acquiesced in its destruction and accept the demise of the Amur Leopard.

This wildcat is nocturnal and solitary. The Leopard's prey is deer, boar, hares, rodents etc. The male can weigh up to about 110 lbs. This is about half the average weight of male humans in America. They must be good climbers as they spend a lot of time in the trees eating and sleeping. This reminds me of the Clouded Leopard, which is one of the best wildcat climbers.


Amur Leopard to Wild Cat Species

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