The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) confirmed today that camera traps in the Wangqing Nature Reserve in northeast China recorded footage of a female Amur leopard with two cubs, marking the first record of breeding by this critically-endangered cat in China. The cameras, located some 30 km (18 miles) away from the primary Amur leopard population on the Russia side of the China-Russia border, are part of a region-wide camera trap project conducted by the Forestry Bureau of Jilin Province.
The WCS China Program runs camera trap monitoring at Hunchun Nature Reserve, 13 km (8 miles) southeast of Wangqing. Other partners in this project include World Wilde Fund for Nature, the Feline Center of the State Forestry Administration, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA).
WCS has been working for more than a decade to improve conditions for leopards, including expanding and improving law enforcement efforts, educating government agencies, and working with local communities to improve livestock husbandry techniques that reduce human disturbance and conflict in leopard habitat. This evidence of reproduction shows that our efforts are paying off.
“This incredible find is important for two reasons. Firstly, it shows that our current efforts are paying off but, secondly, it shows that China can no longer be considered peripheral to the fate of both wild Amur Leopards and Tigers,” said Joe Walston, WCS Executive Director for Asia Programs. With a few key decisions by the government, China could become a major sanctuary for the species.”
Known as the Amur (or Far Eastern) leopard, it is the world’s most endangered big cat, with only 30-50 individuals left in the wild. Cold and deep snows have prevented the leopard’s successful colonization farther north; while in the south, poaching and intensive development have practically eliminated leopards from China and Korea. Today these leopards are found only in a thin strip of land along the Russian-Chinese border.