Thursday 7 June 2012

A Very Important Cat Event

Two Amur leopards have been born in captivity at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation (WHF) in Smarden, Kent, UK. Why is this an important world cat event? There are thought to be about 35-40 Amur leopards in the wild in the far east of Russia, in a region called Primorskii Krai through which the River Amur flows. It is also the region where the Amur tiger lives (Siberian tiger).

I think this figure of 35-40 is actually incorrect. It comes from newspapers and is the conventional view but a more scientific and modern assessment is 12 Amur leopards in the wild. Yes, exactly 12. Strange isn't it? 

Add to that the 100-140 Amur leopards in captivity in Europe as part of a European breeding program and you have about 150 Amur leopards in the world excluding those in America and other continents. It seems there are about 200-300 in captivity in total worldwide. They are the rarest big cats in the world.

It would seem doubtful that the wild Amur leopard can survive because of genetic diversity - it is too low and inbreeding sets in causing sterility. Habitat loss is a major threat. The leopard has the widest range of all the wild cats. The Amur leopard is one of 9 subspecies of the leopard.

It is sad to think that these cute little cubs will never live in the wild. See a page on the leopard.

Interested? Why do leopards have spots?

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