Monday, October 29, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Amur Leopard

Photo by Penny Hyde
Most people associate leopards with Africa or the snow leopard with Asia, but there is another leopard that deserves some attention – the Amur leopard.

The Amur leopard does not live in Africa. This rare subspecies lives in the Russian Far East. They are one of the most stunning cats I have ever seen. Sadly, the Amur leopard is critically endangered with only around 30 left in the wild. 

While habitat destruction is partially to blame, it is not the main reason for the decline in the species. The bigger problem is poaching and over hunting of the Amur leopards prey. As with other animals that have beautiful fur, the Amur leopard is hunted for its spotted fur and there is an insufficient amount of prey to sustain a large population in the wild.

Once an animal reaches critically endangered status, strong measures need to be taken to ensure the survival of the species. In this case, an international conservation program was established. Although some people have mixed feelings on keeping wild animals in captivity, the conservation efforts made by several well-known zoos in the United States have helped increase the captive population to hundreds. In my opinion, this is conservation at its finest. Job well done.

Photo by Deric Wagner
In April 2012, the San Diego Zoo was fortunate to have three Amur leopards join their family. Koshka, Primoyre, and Zeya are siblings who arrived as part of the international conservation program designed to help save the Amur leopard. When they arrived they were playful 11 month old babies - running and jumping all over the place. I have been lucky enough to see these siblings on several occasions and they are so much fun to watch. However, when I watch them play I have mixed emotions. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to see such an amazing animal, yet I can’t help but feel sad knowing how critically endangered they are in the wild.

Yes, there are other species of leopards ... but there is only one Amur leopard. 

Photo by Penny Hyde

Special thanks to my friends Deric and Penny for allowing me to share your beautiful pictures of the Amur leopards from the San Diego Zoo. 

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