Russia Takes Big Step to Save Rarest Big Cats

Russia Takes Big Step to Save Rarest Big Cats

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Amur Leopard GNU-WikipediaThe Amur leopard was thrown a lifeline yesterday with the establishment of a new national park in Russia, announced by the World Wildlife Fund, to help protect the world’s rarest wild cat.

Fewer than 40 Amur leopards are believed to exist in the wild. The majority of those currently reside in the new Land of the Leopard National Park in Russia’s Far East. The park includes about 60 percent of the remaining habitat and all of the breeding areas for the critically endangered cat.

“Amur leopards are literally teetering on the brink of extinction,” said Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, head of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) species program. “With the establishment of Land of the Leopard National Park, in conjunction with other conservation efforts, we can now start to focus on how to begin bringing them back.”

The Land of the Leopard National Park extends across nearly 650,000 acres (262,000 hectares), and is also home to 10 Amur tigers. The government of Russia announced an investment of around $16.6 million for the development of the park’s infrastructure, and another $1.3 million towards its upkeep.

The park will be comprised of various zones, including protected areas, an economic development zone, and a recreational zone that will include forested areas and sites for eco-tourism.

Since 2001, WWF has supported the establishment of the Land of the Leopard National Park in Russia as critical to ensuring the survival of Amur leopards, as well as Amur tigers.

Due to extensive habitat loss and conflict with humans, Amur leopards are critically endangered, with fewer than 40 believed to remain in Russia and China. The Amur leopard is also known as the Far East leopard, the Manchurian leopard or the Korean leopard.

(Source: World Wildlife Fund)