Conserving a Creature
Do you ever wonder what animals you never get to see at a zoo? Many animals never make it to a zoo because they become extinct due to a variety of reasons and the Amur Leopard is no different. Also known as the Far East Leopard, the species is listed as critically endangered. This means this species has a high chance of becoming extinct in the wild due to its decreasing prey population and fur poaching. There is an active force of people trying to save this animal while another is trying to harm it. Discovering how and why both groups are making these decisions allows us to peer into the leopard’s environment. As well as practical ways for the public to do their part and help to write a better story for these animals.
Get to Know The Animal
Leopards do not only exist in the rolling plain of the savannah. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a leader in the conservation of animals, has a lot to say about the Amur Leopard. These unique subspecies leopards are located in southeast Russia and northeast China. More specifically the Primorye region and the Jilin Province respectively is the small are you can find this small number of leopards. These climates are mixed forest climates with a mix of broad leaf and temperate. This type of an environment provides the Leopard with plenty of roe deer, sika deer and hare to prey on. These nimble yet strong creatures can grow to be seventy to one hundred five pounds and can run at about thirty five miles an hour. In captivity they can live about twenty years and in the wild only ten to fifteen years. If you feel compelled to learn more about these leopards the Denver Zoo has a quick fact sheet that can fill you in.
Why Are They Disappearing
In The Art of War it was said “we must know our enemy.” Everyone understands that poaching is cruel, unnecessary, and harmful to animal species. There has to be more influence on people to commit such heinous acts other than collecting fur, right? According to the Amur Leopard Tiger Alliance (ALTA) the accessibility to the forest that this species inhabits plays a large factor. Natives can can come in and hunt for sport or food with relative ease. They also state that employment in that region contributes largely to the poaching of these beautiful animals.
“Many local industries in Southwest Primorye collapsed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Collective farming of deer and salmon was reduced, and fur farming and cereal production were discontinued. As a result, many local villagers lost their jobs and turned to the forest as a source of income and food to feed their families.”
This article continues on to discuss the impact of Chinese nationals who “strip the forests of wildlife and other non-timber-forest-products.”
Poaching is not the only problem that these animals are facing. Another major issue is deforestation of the habitat they occupy. This cuts down on area for the leopard to roam but also less room for the prey species. Not only are man and animal competing for space they are also competing for food. Both the WWF page and ALTA page state this to be a problem. These civilizations hunt the same types of prey animals as the leopards do. Because of this skewed food chain it is hard for an endangered species to sustain growth.
Bringing Back the Cats
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.” This was not ALTA’s case what so ever. Their plan of action was astounding and immediately caught my attention. ALTA gave a detailed plan to increase the population of the Amur Leopard into old territories. Contained in this plan were the short-term goals, long-term goals, and the steps necessary to accomplish the long-term goals. The group’s short term will hope to occur in the next few years. They believe with the right funding and political backing that they could have their facilities on the ground and in an operable state. The main long-term goal they have is to release a group of these leopards into an area around the Lazovsky Nature Reserve in Southern Sikhote Alin. The leopards are currently extinct in this region but thirty years ago this was one of their natural habitats. This would take place ten to fifteen years in the future. The primary outcome desired from these actions is to see the population double from thirty to forty animals to eighty. Also have an additional group of thirty leopards form in another area. To accomplish this conservation effort they have mapped out the following steps:
- Identify optimal reintroduction areas and release sites.
- Build a reintroduction center with breeding/release enclosures and creating the conditions required for breeding, adaptation and successful reintroduction of leopards.
- Form a breeding group of captive leopards that will become the founders of the reintroduced wild population.
- Take actions to maintain the quality of the leopard habitat including additional protection of prey species and leopards against poachers.
- Breed leopards, preparing cubs for life in the wild and releasing them into the wild.
- Implement a monitoring system and follow the movements of released individual leopards and the development of the reintroduced population as a whole.
- Conduct an educational outreach program targeted at local citizens in order to increase their support for the program, and develop a compensation and conflict resolution program in order to ease tensions when leopards do cause damage.
- Ensure international co-operation and support for the program.
This was the start of a one hundred page plan to bring this species back to a healthy population for years to come. To see this plan in its entirety please click here.
What the Public Can Do
Both ALTA and WWF have easy ways for the everyday person to contribute. Each of these organizations has a donations page where you give money, write a message, and receive a small gift as a thank you for your donation. WWF even has the option for you to adopt a Amur Leopard. For a certain price a month you can ensure that that animal is cared for. They even have an option to support a ranger who is protecting these animals. Your donations would go to providing them with the tools and shelter they need while they are out on patrol.
If you want to contribute to stopping poaching and protecting these beautiful animals please click on the link below to take you the respected organizations donation page.