Saving Leopards

Saving the Leopard in the Wild

Saving Leopards and TigersBig Cat Rescue was recently contacted by the Sr. Program Officer of World Wildlife Fund’s Asian Species Conservation Program asking for assistance with a major initiative in tiger conservation. In mid-December, WWF will begin their 5-month program “Tiger Conservation in the Cambodian Eastern Plains.” This 4.5 million acre area of Cambodia, once termed “the Serengeti of Asia,” possesses a globally outstanding landscape for biodiversity and is one of the highest priority tiger conservation areas in the world. It provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to save the tiger, along with a host of other species including the Asian elephant, Eld?s deer, wild water buffalo, gaur, banteng, leopard and dhole. The first step of this project is to complete an occupancy survey of this vast, remote area.

Big Cat Rescue’s Asian leopards will play an important role in this plan. Over the next few weeks, dogs will be trained to recognize large carnivore scat (fecal material) by a team at the Univ. of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology. Having tracked grizzlies and brown bears in Canada, these energetic detection dogs were originally rescued from shelters. They have undergone intensive training and now have rewarding careers in conservation research (more info:

In order for these dogs to do an effective job in Cambodia, one of the first things they need is Asian leopard scat for training purposes. Senior Keepers Julie Hanan and Marie Schoubert gladly volunteered to collect scat samples at Big Cat Rescue from Asian leopard participants for this program; Reno, Cheetaro, Jumanji, Sundari, Nyla, Simba, and Sabre. A week’s worth of scat samples were collected, bagged, identified and shipped on dry ice overnight to Washington where the two dogs being deployed to Cambodia await their training. Once the dogs arrive in Cambodia in December, they will be trained further on locally collected scats so they get used to the smell of natural scats from these species.

When asked why she volunteered for this project, Marie Schoubert explained that she often hears people frustrated saying that, the more they fight and try to help nature and the animals, the less difference they see. But her attitude is that we can never give up. Her passion for animal conservation is so strong that she helps any way she can, whether it be by volunteering countless hours at Big Cat Rescue, by using her voice (she is fluent in many different languages), by signing petitions, etc. When she heard about this project, she knew that this would be just one more way she, and the leopards of Big Cat Rescue, could help make a huge difference.

Marie and Julie both share Big Cat Rescue’s vision – a world where the animals we share it with are treated with respect and caring and where habitat is preserved to ensure the indefinite future survival of these wonderful gifts of nature. Though the Asian leopards at Big Cat Rescue are captive, the help they have provided through this program to their “cousins” in the wild may prove crucial to the preservation of big cats worldwide. This is just another example of Big Cat Rescue’s global impact by our volunteers who care and are committed so deeply to our mission.

Further background information:

Update 12/2/09

Scooby“The dogs left for Cambodia yesterday fully trained on your scats; thank you once again!” Barney Long, Senior Program Officer – WWF Asian Species Conservation wrote to Big Cat Rescue today.

Marie and I were excited to hear the scat detection dogs are on their way to Cambodia – a 30+ hour trip for them and their handlers from Conservation Canines. Even better is that we now have pictures of Sadie and Scooby, the dogs chosen for this project. Both are black labs and are “insane” when it comes to playing fetch. They say they are the perfect dogs for doing the census work in Cambodia to determine current populations of big cats there. All those bags and bags of leopard scat we picked up and sent to them has taught them well!!

Scooby has quite a resume. He’s worked in Alberta surveying for wolf, caribou and moose and in Montana determining the presence of grizzly and black bears. Now, he’s off to Cambodia to survey for tiger, dhole (wild dog), clouded leopard and leopard!

SadieSadie, another dog with boundless energy, surveyed the White Mountains
to determine the presence of Mexican Grey Wolves on local Native American Reservations after the wolves’ re-introduction in that area. She also helped in Alberta investigating the effects of oil drilling on local populations of wolf, moose, and caribou.
As far as big cats go, Sadie is proficient at tracking Jaguar and Mountain Lion, but will hopefully now add many more to her list in Cambodia!

If you go to “Conservation Canines” on FaceBook, you’ll be able to see some amazing pictures of these dogs in action around the world. Please become a FaceBook FAN of “Conservation Canines” so you can stay up-to-date on their progress. WWF’s Barney Long promised to forward pictures to Big Cat Rescue as Sadie and Scooby do their scat detection work in Cambodia.

We can’t wait!

Julie Hanan, Volunteer Senior Keeper

For more information, go to:

Photos courtesy of Center for Conservation Biology

Big Cat Rescue is saving leopards. We post the latest in leopard news here and in our newsletter Cat Tales. We gather news from around the world DAILY and forward it to The Association of Sanctuaries and the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition, of which we are a part, who are actively involved in saving leopards. See what you can do to help save these exotic cats in captivity and in the wild. Great Cats are in peril around the world and need people like you, who care about leopards and other exotic cats to help save them from the brink of extinction. Big Cat Rescue is working to make it illegal to sell leopards as pets and is diligently striving to improve conditions for big cats in zoos and circuses.

The U.S. State Department is working to save the Amur Leopard and has asked Big Cat Rescue to help them get the message out to you.

One way to help save wild animals in their native habitats is through Eco-Tourism and our friend, Hamadi, founder of African Wildcats Adventure Safaris, assures us that his guides respect the animals and that his company is taking active steps to protect Kenya’s wildlife and habitat. If you are thinking above a trip to Africa, check out

Download this 2008 report documenting 1,158 endangered and threatened exotic cats being illegally, yet openly sold in Myanmar markets.  The Wild Cat Trade in Myanmar

Amur Leopard: Conservation through Cooperation

Amur Leopard CubThe wild Amur leopard’s situation is dire:  Only some 35 animals remain in the forests of the Russian Far East (RFE), and recently one of the few breeding-aged females was wantonly shot and killed.  Various efforts to assist with the protection of this rare animal and its habitat are underway, but these appear relatively under-resourced and are not necessarily given the attention needed by Russian authorities whose responsibilities and resources may also be uncertain.  In short, a sustained and systematic effort is needed to save the Amur leopard, not least by generating the political will to implement certain recommendations made, in some cases, years ago.


Accordingly, State (EUR/PGI) has brought together a number of offices and agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Smithsonian/National Zoo and, within State, the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Sciences (OES), as well as the Russia Office within the European Bureau.  Moreover, Consulate General Vladivostok has provided valuable insights into the needs and possible solutions identified on the ground of the RFE.


Among the main challenges identified thus far are:  Creating a single protected area for the Amur leopard (or linking the currently existing three zones); Enhancing the capacity of regional authorities to combat Amur Leopard Wildpoaching and wildfires; Augmenting public awareness of the need to protect the Amur leopard and its habitat; and Encouraging cooperation between Russia and China on measures to reduce illegal poaching and logging in crucial border areas.  (How breeding programs at the Moscow and London zoos might be linked to a re-introduction initiative has yet to be determined.)


Specific steps that State could take include: Engaging relevant Russian (and Chinese) officials to ascertain their willingness to speed conservation efforts; Identifying, within State (and other agencies), resources and expertise that might support an international visitors program (for park rangers, local officials, NGO reps, and scientists to look at resource management in the U.S.) or to provide training in combating illegal logging and poaching, as well as fire management; and Developing public diplomacy / outreach efforts to raise awareness of the plight of the Amur leopard among RFE officials, school children, hunters and tourists.  Other options are under consideration, but the key is to leverage the expertise, efforts and resources of many initiatives so that the wild Amur leopard may yet be saved.

Watch Leopard Videos and Comment on YouTube



May 11-14, 2001
Vladivostok, Primorski Krai, Russia

Sixty-five participants (representing 8 countries) of the international workshop believe that:

TSave Amur Leopardhe Far Eastern leopard is in immediate danger of extinction.  With an estimated 25-40 individuals in the Russian Far East, 4-7 in northeast China (Jilin Province), reproduction apparently at a very low level, and genetic diversity severely impoverished, this subspecies must be considered one of the world’s most endangered large cats.  Despite the immediacy of the threat, conservation efforts in the region have been inadequate to reverse the trend towards extinction.  The purpose of this workshop was to: 1) derive a set of management recommendations to ensure the continued survival of the Far Eastern leopard in the wild in its historical range; 2) act as an advertisement of its plight; and, 3) provide a mechanism for implementing new conservation measures.

Therefore, workshop participants resolve that:

1. The conservation of Far Eastern leopards in their existent range in Southwest Primorski Krai and wherever else they may occur in China, DPR Korea or South Korea is of the highest priority.

2. The Jilin Provincial Forestry Department be highly commended for its progress in creating a protected area for tigers and leopards in Hunchun, Jilin Province, China, along the Russian border.  Workshop participants fully approve and support these efforts to create a specially protected area adjacent to the existing leopard population in Southwest Primorski Krai.

3. The governments of Russia, China, and DPR Korea be requested to assess opportunities for coordination in managing transboundary protected areas.

4. The optimization of a specially protected system in Southwest Primorski Krai be accomplished through creation of a single protected territory in the immediate future.

5. To start preparing for the actions on supplementation of the wild population by collecting additional ecological, biomedical, and reproductive information of the wild population and developing the captive population as a potential source of restoration. After a decision on supplementation project has been taken, the captive population should be used to supplement and sustain the wild population. The process of supplementation should be accomplished in accordance with existing “IUCN/SSC Guidelines for Re-introductions”.

6. Conservation of the Far Eastern leopard requires the creation and maintenance of additional populations within its historic range. Such a reintroduction program will make use of the captive population and will be done in accordance with existing “IUCN/SSC Guidelines for Re-introductions”.

7. The anti-poaching activities in the contemporary and historic range of the Far Eastern leopard be coordinated and financial support be found and maintained for these efforts.

8. The activities of protected territories and hunting leases to advance leopard conservation be evaluated and that financial support for these organizations be found as part of a general leopard conservation program.

9. Conservation of the Far Eastern leopard should include efforts to develop programs mutually beneficial to all stakeholders in deer farms and leopards.

10.  The proposed GEF project “Fire Management in Forests of Special Biological Importance in the Amur-Sikhote-Alin Ecoregion” could be of great assistance in protecting critical habitat for Far Eastern leopards if the focus area of this project is extended to Southwest Primorski Krai.

11. The attached recommendations are approved as the basis for further recovery activities for the Far Eastern leopard.

12. The implementation of these recommendations require establishment of a Far Eastern Leopard Steering Committee, and that such a group will be coordinated by a Chairman with the assistance of an Executive Secretary.

Chairman G. V. Kolonin
Executive Secretary: to be determined.
Working group members: V. V. Aramilev, T. D. Arzhanova, Y. A. Darman, P. V. Fomenko, V. G. Korkishko, V. Nesterenko, D. G. Pikunov, I. O. Suslov, S. A. Zubtsov, O. Uphyrkina, C. Breitenmoser, U. Breitenmoser, D. G. Miquelle, S. O’Brien, S. Christie, M. Hotte, representative of hunting society, representative of Krai Administration; Endi Zhang, Zhang Chuan Jun, Tao Jin, representative of State Forestry Administration (People’s Republic of China), representative of Jilin Forestry Department, representative from DPR Korea.

13. The Far Eastern Leopard Steering Committee will have responsibility for developing an action plan based on the “Strategy for Conservation of the Far Eastern leopard in Russia” and provide this finished plan for review by the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation.

14. The Administration of Primorski Krai be requested to develop a regional program for regulating landuse on the territory of Southwest Primorski Krai that provides for conservation of the Far Eastern leopard.




Moderators: Yu. A. Darman, D. G. Pikunov
Participants: V.K. Abramov, V.V. Aramilev, V.A. Andronov, A.S. Bogachev, S.A. Zubtsov, Yu.N. Zhuravlev, O.F. Iskhakov, V.G. Korkishko, V.G. Krever, V. Lukarevski, Yu.A. Nesmachny, I.G. Nikolaev, O.I. Suslov, Eric and Kirsten Conrad, Dale McCullough, Dale Miquelle.

To insure long-term conservation of the existing leopard population in Southwest Primorski Krai workshop participants recommend the following actions::


  1. Amur Leopard in SnowProvide coordinated land management regime in existing leopard range in Southwest Primorye (Khasanski, Nadezhdinski, and Ussuriiski Raions) in accordance with the Ecological Program of Primorski Krai and a proposed plan (see below).
  2. Establish a single, federal-level specially protected territory, with adequate legal authority, organizational capacity, and financial security to manage lands on a specially protected territory and to coordinate nature use on adjacent areas over the entire leopard range in Southwest Primorye.  Jurisdiction of the specially protected territory should be decided upon by the Government of Russian Federation.
  3. Develop a system of protecting individual, isolated leopard populations based on the analysis of spatial distribution of breeding females and litters.
  4. Conduct a survey among local people, hunters and tourists to assess their attitude towards leopard conservation.
  5. Develop and implement a management program for ungulates to provide sustainable prey base for leopards.
  6. Ban hunting with dogs, and use of traps and snares in leopard habitats, through zoning of hunting leases.
  7. Conduct a coordinated environmental education program on leopard conservation, including TumenNet Project.
  8. Develop a coordinated fire fighting program in Southwest Primorye.
  9. Find funds to support the specially protected territories in leopard range.

The workshop participants consider it necessary to plan for the unification of existing protected territories into a single federal-level specially protected territory within leopard range in Southwest Primorye (Recommendation 1, above) and for this purpose the following activities should be conducted:


  1. Establish an interdepartmental commission (attached to Committee of Nature Resources of Primorski Krai) on optimization of specially protected territories in leopard range.
  2. Entrust planning of specially protected territories to a specialized expedition that includes local experts (to create a working group of experts responsible for developing a zoning regime for the specially protected territory).
  3. Conduct a social-economic survey in Southwest Primorye to assess the role of natural resources in meeting the needs of local people.
  4. Take into consideration the following proposals on optimization of a specially protected territory:
  5. to resolve the question of providing a special protection regime for leopard conservation behind border fence that is agreed upon by the Federal Frontier Service of RF;
  6. to retain the territory and protected status of Kedrovaya Pad Zapovednik as a central core of any future unified specially protected territory;
  7. to improve the protective regime and restore leopard habitat in an ecological corridor between Kedrovaya Pad Reserve and border fence;
  8. based on the recommendations of working group specialists, to optimize the regime of federal Barsovy Zakaznik and to develop a zoning regime within its territory that considers the needs of local people;
  9. to strengthen as much as possible the nature protection regime of regional Borisovskoe Plateau Zakaznik on the territory outside the frontier zone;
  10. to develop a zoning regime on make hunting lands that includes a restricted use regime on key areas for leopard conservation;
  11. to optimize forest use in leopard habitat and develop use regimes that are compatible with leopard conservation.

Workshop participants consider the following scientific research to be necessary:


  1. Organize continuous monitoring of the leopard population and its habitats.
  2. Summarize all available data on spatial distribution of leopards, and to include all data into an existent GIS.
  3. Assess the influence of hunting leases on the leopard population and its habitats.
  4. Determine the reason low reproductive output and high mortality of young.
  5. Conduct comprehensive counts of ungulate and to assess carrying capacity of habitats for prey.
  6. Assess the impact of fire and logging on habitat, numbers, and distribution of leopards and their prey.



Moderators: Olga Uphyrkina, Stephen O’Brien, Sarah Christie, Tanya Arzhanova

Recommendation 1. Concerning genetic status of the wild population

Objective/Goal: Maximum possible knowledge of the genetic status of the wild population
Conservation Activities: Acquire blood, tissue and fecal samples opportunistically, e.g. during the monitoring program, and analyse these
Responsible agencies: People/organizations doing monitoring for sample collection, Lab Genomic Diversity, University of California, for analysis
Budget: To be determined but not much

Recommendation 2. Concerning genetic status of captive population

Objective/Goal: Maximum knowledge of the genetic status of the captive population
Conservation Activities Check records and genetic analysis in studbook and Laboratory.  Determine how representative of the living population the existing sampling is, and whether further sampling is worthwhile (more than half the founders are represented, and the missing genetic material is less than 15% of the gene pool).
Responsible agencies: Laboratory of Genomic Diversity (Olga Uphyrkina, Steve O’Brien); EEP for Far Eastern Leopard (Sarah Christie, Tanya Arzhanova)
Budget: Zero

Recommendation 3.  Concerning effects of genetic impoverishment on wild population

Objective/Goal: Knowledge of life history and demographic parameters, and potential correlates for inbreeding, including morphological, reproductive, biomedical and other mal-adaptive traits.
Conservation Activities: Three to five year ecological monitoring program; radiotelemetry, cameratrapping, and tissue sampling.  Including at least one full  biomedical evaluation of 4-10 individuals.  These data should be collected and assessed in a timely manner to be advisory to the Far Eastern Leopard Working Group who would be charged with developing actions related to implementation and strategies (if  approved) for genetic restoration of the wild population.
Responsible agencies Coalition of appropriate government organizations and NGOs (not up to us to decide)
Budget: $100,000 per year for monitoring, $30,000 for the biomedical evaluation.

Recommendation 4.  Concerning captive population management strategy

Objective/Goal: Maximum possible conservation support for the wild population for the foreseeable future
Conservation Activities: Continue with existing management strategy as agreed and recommended by the captive management committee for this EEP.
Resonsible agencies: EEP for Far Eastern leopard (Coordinators; Sarah Christie & Tanya Arzhanova)
Budget: Zero

Recommendation 5.  Concerning genetic strategies to consider for restoration

Objective/Goal: Provision of advice on genetic strategies to the Far Eastern leopard Steering Group
Conservation Activities: Establish genetic criteria for choosing restoration strategies
Responsible agencies: Genetics and captive breeding working group; completed
Budget: Zero


Moderator: P. V. Fomenko

GOAL: Restoration of the Far Eastern leopard population in its historic, twentieth century, range, and supplement its existing population.

Recommendation 1. Assess reasons for localized extinctions.
Objective: Evaluate the reasons why leopards disappeared from its historical range, and the changes that have occurred in this range to date.
Conservation actions:
1.1. Request specialists to undertake an in-depth analysis of all possible reasons why the leopard disappeared from the southern Sikhote-Alin and southwest Primorye.

1.2. Evaluate the changes that have occurred since the disappearance of the leopard and evaluate their importance in regard to reintroduction.

Recommendation 2.  Obtain support of local people.
Objective. Obtain the support of local population.
Conservation actions:
2.1. Develop and distribute a package of environmental education materials.
2.2. Carry out a public information campaign explaining the goals and objectives of the project.
2.3. Create additional employment opportunities.
2.4. Create alternative income opportunities for local people.

Recommendation 3. Increase prey in areas proposed for reintroduction.
Objective: Increase the number of prey in areas selected for reintroduction and for supplementing the current population.
Conservation actions:
3.1. Launch broad-based environmental protection activities in historic leopard range.
3.2. Develop and implement habitat improvement measures aimed at increasing leopard prey.
3.3. Develop and adopt a plan to increase ungulates in historic and contemporary leopard habitat.
3.4. Develop a specific management regime for leopard prey.

Recommendation 4.  Reintroduce leopards into their historic range
Objective: Create a second leopard population in its historic, twentieth century, range.
Conservation actions:
4.1. Prepare projects and conduct an open competition (in consideration of IUCN recommendations and the creation of an advisory board.)
4.2. Conduct an environmental “ekspertiza” of all projects.
4.3. Gain approval of projects at the Federal level.
4.4. Begin implementation of the selected project.

Recommendation 5. Ensure conditions exist conducive for reintroduction in selected area
Objective: Establish that all conditions in areas selected for reintroduction are favorable.
Conservation actions:
5.1. Pursue fire suppression activities and integrate existing fire suppression activities in leopard habitat.
5.2. Provide an appropriate environmental protection regime in leopard reintroduction areas.

Recommendation 6. Insure survival of the existing population.
Objective: Insure the survival of the existing population.
Conservation actions:
6.1. Supplement the existing wild population with captive bred animals, if the criteria are met (the Steering Committee must define the criteria for intervention and initiate the monitoring of the population and the surveillance of reproduction, mortality, and health status).

Recommendation 6. Do not exclude leopards with Founder No. 2 genes for reintroduction and supplementation.


Moderators:   V. Karakin, V. Solkin
Participants:   Yu. A. Nesmachny, A.B. Yurienko, Balashkin, A.S. Bogachev, S. Shaitarov, M. Hotte, S. A. Zubtsov, Tarakanov and others



  1. Develop sustainable uses of natural resources that provide for leopard conservation on deer farms and adjacent territories (including lands adjacent to nearby settlements).
  2. Propagate a tolerant attitude towards leopards among local people.  Explain to local people that future development investments in the region depend upon leopard conservation.

Conservation actions:


  1. To develop a conceptual framework for sustainable use of natural resources on deer farms that includes leopard conservation, to assess which factors limit productivity of deer farms, and to identify additional potential revenues that could be developed using deer farms (Primorskaya Academy of Agriculture).
  2. To develop a regional law that delineates use of natural resources in leopard range (WWF).
  3. To develop a proposal for the State Duma (Russian Federation) that would include a clause in the Land Code that would provide for nature protection easements for landowners in leopard range (Krai Duma).
  4. To develop a model project for sustainable use of nature within leopard range (Krai Administration, WWF).
  5. To continue the compensation program for predator depredation (Tigris Foundation).
  6. To conduct financial assessment of deer farms, and the potential for marketing deer farm products (Traffic).
  7. To improve legal competence of deer farms managers in understanding their rights and possibilities for protection of private property (WWF).
  8. To support the initiatives aimed at strengthening protection of deer farms (Tiger Volunteers and others) .
  9. To conduct an information and education campaign “Leopard Land” in Southwest Primorye (WWF, Khasan Team of Tiger Inspection).
  10. To establish two model information & education centers  on key territories (Gamov and Yankovski Peninsulas) (WWF, Phoenix Fund, Khasan Team of Tiger Inspection).


Moderators: I.O. Suslov, V.V. Aramilev


  1. Anti-poaching activities
    1. To coordinate the activities and structure of anti-poaching teams (Leading organizations – Ministry of Natural Resources, Primorski Krai Department of Protection, Control, and Regulated Use of Wildlife, Academy of Sciences).
    2. To improve material and technical support to antipoaching teams with support from a variety of sources (state support, grants, other sources).
    3. To prepare proposals for improving legislation for protection of leopards and other rare species.
    4. To improve the training system of guards on protected areas and hunting leases (to conduct regular training and seminars for hunting inspectors and protection specialists).


  1. Hunting Management Activities
    1. To study the influence of hunting leases on leopards and leopard habitat.  Develop recommendations for management of hunting leases in leopard habitat.
    2. To ban hunting with dogs, traps and snares based on a zoning of hunting lease lands within leopard habitat.

2.3. To improve legislation concerning protection and use of hunting resources at the regional level.


    1. To use Nezhinskoe hunting lease as a model to demonstrate how hunting management and predator conservation can be complementary.

2.5. To assess the status and activities of hunting leases in Southwest Primorye.
2.6. To provide financial support for protection of leopards and their habitat in hunting leases in Southwest Primorye.
2.7. Environmental education targeted at hunters and local people concerning leopard conservation (signs, lectures, mass media, etc.).



Prepared by the Genetics/Captive Management Working Group

The Far Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) survives as a single small relict population of between 30 and 50 individuals in the Russian Far East (RFE).  The population descends from a 19th century Northeast Asian subspecies whose range had extended through eastern Russia, North Korea and North Eastern China.  A molecular genetic analysis of leopard DNA collected from the remaining RFE population and from captive animals derived from the North Korean (NK) population, using mitochondrial gene sequences (Control region and NADH5; 727 base pairs) plus 25 nuclear microsatellite loci, has revealed a marked depletion of population genetic diversity relative to that observed using the same genetic markers in other leopard subspecies.  The genetic results are described in detail in two scientific report authored by Uphyrkina, Miquelle, O’Brien and collaborators that are submitted for publication.  The findings affirmed the subspecies level distinctiveness of the P. p. orientalis specimens and also demonstrated a close genetic relationship with the formerly adjacent Chinese subspecies. P. p. japonensis. The observations were evident for both the RFE and the NK populations, samples of which (although limited – 7 and 5 individuals respectively), showed highly similar genotypes and amounts of genetic depletion.

The levels of diversity measured are remarkably low, indicative of a history of inbreeding in the population for several generations. The levels of genetic depletion observed in P. p orientalis is comparable to the reduction observed using the same genetic techniques in the severely inbred Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) and the relict Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) from the Gujarat state in western India.  Such levels of genetic reduction have been associated with severe congenital and reproductive abnormalities that impede the health, survival and reproduction of some but not all genetically diminished small populations.  Such abnormalities have not been observed in the free ranging P. p. orientalis population, although sufficient monitoring to exclude their occurrence has not been achieved.  When considered in the context of non-physiological perils that threaten small populations ( e.g. chance mortality, poaching, climatic extremes, infectious disease and others), the genetic depletion and demographic data indicate a critically diminished population under severe threat of extinction.

The captive population of Amur leopard was established in 1961 from 9 wild born founders as a back-up to the wild population.  Molecular genetic analysis of a sampling of 22 individuals revealed that the population contains appreciable genetic diversity compared to the wild population or other leopard subspecies.  However, that diversity is clearly the result of  representation of a mixture of founders from P. p orientalis and another subspecies, most likely the neighboring P. p. japonensis.  At least two founders (SB2 and SB89)  and their offspring show genetic influence that is diagnostic for P. p. japonensis inclusion.

As such the captive population is robust and genetically diverse and should be considered as a potential source for restoration of the genetically diminished wild population.  Evolutionary coalescent calculations based on molecular genetic distance between subspecies indicate that gene flow between P.  p. orientalis and P. p. japonensis likely occurred in the last 1000 years and as recently as 200 years ago.  Thus the captive population would genetically reflect the common gene flow status of a contiguous range of East Asian leopards that had occupied Asia a millennium ago.  As such it would seem to provide a suitable candidate population for potential restoration of the wild population of P.  p. orientalis.



Prepared by the Genetics/Captive Management Working Group

A total of 160 Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) are held in zoos in Europe and Russia (the EEP) and North America (the PMP).  This population has a founder base of 15 animals, of which three have not yet produced any surviving offspring.  Four of the founders are on record as originating from Russia, ten (including the three that have not yet bred) from North Korea, and one from an unknown location – the notorious founder number 2.

Molecular genetic work indicates that not only founder 2 but also founder 89 belongs to the subspecies P. p. japonensis, from northern China.  While founder 89 constitutes only 4% of the genome of the living population in 2001, only ten of the 160 living animals in the managed zoo program do not contain any genetic contribution from founder 2.  These ten animals consist of six adults which originated from North Korea and four cubs born to them, and are listed in Table 1 below.


ID No Origin Sex Age Status and notes
Moscow Zoo 212 Wild-caught, Korea F ~12 Infertile, never bred.
Moscow Zoo 460 Unknown if wild-caught or captive bred, Korea M ~8 Fertile, no surviving offspring yet
Prague Zoo 211 Wild-caught, Korea M ~12 Fertile, has bred.
Prague Zoo 294 Unknown if wild-caught or captive bred, Korea F ~10 Never bred and poor health.  Probably infertile; has had hormone treatment
Prague Zoo 376 Assumed wild-caught, Korea F ~8 Fertile, has bred.
Prague Zoo 492 Born in Prague to 211 and 376 M ~2 Too young to assess fertility.  Has skeletal defects in front legs
Rotterdam Zoo 451 Born in Prague to 193 and 376 M ~4 Has only one testicle.  Not yet bred.
Berlin Tierpark 216 Wild-caught, Korea M ~12 Fertile, never bred.
Berlin Tierpark 452 Born in Prague to 193 and 376 F ~4 Not yet bred
Prague Zoo 515 Born in Prague to 193 and 376 M 0 Too young to assess fertility.  Has skeletal defects in front legs

Table 1.  Living Far Eastern leopards without genetic contributions from founder 2

As can be seen, of the ten living animals with no contribution from founders 2 or 89, one is infertile, another is probably infertile, two are fertile but have not yet produced any surviving offspring, several are close to the end of their reproductive lives, and three of the young ones have defects that are probably due to inbreeding.

It has been clear since 1998 that these few leopards derived solely from Korea are not nearly numerous enough, nor from a sufficiently large founder base, to produce a healthy and viable population if they are managed in isolation.  EEP policy has therefore been to mate leopards without any founder 2 in their genome to leopards with low levels of these founders in their genome, instead of exclusively with each other.  In addition, in order to minimise the contribution of founder 2 as far as is possible, while still maintaining a healthy level of genetic diversity, all leopards with more than 41% founder 2 have been excluded from the EEP breeding pool entirely (the origin of founder 89 was only discovered in 2001, and her contribution to the population is insignificant in comparison to founder 2).  The PMP population does not contain any animals without founder 2 in their genome and so did not have to make the management decision above, but is effectively being managed on similar lines.

There are approximately 100 animals in the EEP and PMP with less than 41% founder 2 in their genome.  With good management, this population is capable of retaining about 90% of the genetic diversity one might expect to find in the wild over at least the next few decades.

A matrix of “similarity co-efficients” among the leopards without founder 2 or 89 in their genomes, produced from the molecular genetic analysis, was seen by the EEP Coordinators for the first time at the May 2001 Amur leopard workshop in Vladivostok.  Relevant data are reproduced in Table 2 below (provided by the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity).

SB # 211 212 193 142 451 376 492 294 216
212 0.78
193 0.78 0.76
142 0.76 0.82 0.86
451 0.78 0.72 0.86 0.80
376 0.84 0.78 0.86 0.76 0.84
492 0.88 0.73 0.71 0.69 0.69 0.79
294 0.80 0.84 0.78 0.78 0.74 0.80 0.77
216 0.77 0.83 0.73 0.71 0.75 0.83 0.74 0.79
460 0.77 0.79 0.75 0.77 0.71 0.77 0.72 0.81 0.74

Values shown are the coefficient of similarity (Mxy).  A parent-child, or brother-sister pairing in a large unrelated population would have a coefficient of 0.5.  The high values shown here are equivalent to the result of continuous brother-sister matings over generations.
Pairing between 211 and 376 – has produced one cub with bone deformity
Pairing between 193 and 376 – has produced one cub with one testicle and one with bone deformity
Table 2: Coefficients of similarity (Mxy) between the leopards without genetic contribution from founder 2

The data in Table 2, in combination with the recent birth of the third defective cub, make it clear that the existing EEP policy does not go far enough; in fact, all attempts to produce cubs from pairings between the Korean leopards listed in Table 1 should cease immediately.  Those Korean leopards that are fertile should be paired instead with animals containing low levels of founder 2 in their genome in order to begin producing healthy, less inbred cubs while also decreasing the overall representation of founder 2 in the population.  Once this process is under way, and if a restoration program is judged to be a necessary and feasible part of an integrated strategy for the long-term conservation of Amur leopards in the wild, it is likely that in about three years time the captive population will be in a position to provide adult stock from which cubs could be produced for such a program.


Russian participants

Abramov V.K.            Ussuriisky Reserve, IBS FEB RAS
Andronov V.A.           RFE Department of Natural Resources
Aramilev V.V.            Institute of Sustainable Use of Nature Resources
Aramileva T.S.           Unaffiliated
Arjanova T.D.            Moscow Zoo, EEP Amur Leopard Co-coordinator
Balashkin V.I.            Khasan Agro-deer farm
Bereznyuk S.L.          Phoenix Fund
Bogachov A.S.           Primorskaya Agriculture Academy
Darman Yu.A.            WWF, Far Eastern Branch
Fomenko P.V.            WWF, Far Eastern Branch
Gaponov V.V.            Department of Natural Resources, Primorski Krai Administration
Gladyshev E.             Pacific Institute of Geography, FEB RAS
Iskhakov O.F.            Primorski Hunters and Fishermen Society
Karakin V.P.              WWF, Far Eastern Branch
Kles A.A.                  Khasan Agro-deer farm
Kolonin G.V.              Ministry of Natural Resources, Moscow
Korkishko V.G.           Kedrovaya Pad Reserve, IBS FEB RAS
Kotlyar A.K.              Ussuriisky Reserve, IBS FEB RAS
Krever V.                 WWF, Moscow
Kudelya A.S.             Dalpushnina Ltd.
Kulikov A.N.              Khabarovsky Wildlife Foundation
Kushnerenko A.         Far Eastern Customs
Lankin A.                  Pacific Institute of Geography, FEB RAS
Lukarevski V.S.         Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary Problems, RAS
Lyapustin S.N.          Far Eastern Customs
Mezentsev D.N.         Unaffiliated
Murzin A.A.              Pacific Institute of Geography, FEB RAS
Nesmachny Yu.A.      Deputy Head of Khasan District Administration
Nikolaev I. G.            Institute of Biology and Soils FEB RAS
Pikunov D.G.             Pacific Institute of Geography, FEB RAS
Schetinin V.I.            Consultant of Phoenix Fund
Shaitarov S.V.          Tiger Volunteer
Solkin V.                  Zov Taigi
Starostin V.              Tiger Inspection
Stetskaya G.M.          BROK
Suslov I.O.               Primorski Krai Primorski Krai Department of Protection, Control, and Regulated Use of Wildlife
Timchenko V.V.         Tiger Inspection,
Uphyrkina O.V.          Institute of Biology and Soils FEB RAS
Vasiliyev V.Yu.          Nezhinskoe Hunting Lease
Yavnova N.V.            Primorski Krai Committee for Natural Resources
Yudin V.G.                Institute of Biology and Soils FEB RAS
Yurchenko A.             Tiger Inspection
Zhuravlev Yu.N.         Institute of Biology and Soils FEB RAS
Zubtsov S.A.              Tiger Inspection

International particpants

Blomqvist L.               Assistant Director, Helsinki Zoo, Finland
Breitenmoser C.          Co-chairperson, Cat Specialist Group
Breitenmoser U.          Co-chairperson, Cat Specialist Group
Chang Tea                Correspondent, South Korea
Chin H.                     International Fund for Animal Welfare, Massachusetts, USA
Christie S.                 Zoological Society of London, EEP Amur Leopard Co-Coordinator
Conrad E.                  Asia Cats
Conrad K.                  Asia Cats
Hotte M.                   Tigris Foundation
Jones M.                   PERC
Kohl S.                     US Fish and Wildlife Service
LeGrand R.                AP Productions
McCullough D.            Professor Wildlife Management, Berkeley University, California, USA
Miquelle D.                Wildlife Conservation Society, Vladivostok
O’Brien S.                  National Institute of Health, Frederick, Maryland, USA
Oh Tea-Dong             Correspondent, South Korea
Sang-Hoon Han          Korean Wildlife Information & Research Center, Seoul, South Korea
Woefel, J.                 WWF, USA
Yang Shaofan            Jilin Forestry Department, People’s Republic of China
Zhang Chuan Jun        Jilin Wildlife Association, People’s Republic of China
Zhang Endi                Wildlife Conservation Society, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China

-end of report-

The Wildlife Conservation Network

The Wildlife Conservation Network is an organization that shares our belief that the money should go to the animals and not be wasted on salaries and benefits for those who are doing the fundraising.  If you contact them and say you want 100% of your donation to go to the Amur Leopards  in the wild, that is exactly what will happen.

Dr. Olga Uphyrkina has been responsible for guiding a group of Russian conservationist to save the  Amur Leopard.  We met her at the Wildlife Conservation Network conference in 2003 and she was a party to the plans above.  She and her team of researchers are supported in part by Wildlife Conservation Network.  They are trying to save one of the most beautiful creatures on earth in a politically unstable area on less than $25,000.00 a year.

To read more about this conservation effort and see never before seen photos of the Amur Leopard in the wild go to:

To make a donation to help save snow leopards in the wild go to

To make a donation to help save them in captivity go to the Donate button above.

Help Big Cat Rescue put an end to the ruthless poaching.

Appeal Against the Export of Wildlife to Thailand

Dear Mr. President ,

We, the organisations and local communities against the Thai Zoo deal, together with thousands of concerned citizens in Kenya and around the world, are strongly opposed to the government’s decision to export 175 of Kenya ‘s free-ranging wild animals to the Chiang Mai Night Safari zoo in Thailand . We believe Kenya ‘s wildlife should remain in Kenya for the benefit of all Kenyans, as part of our magnificent national heritage. Outlined below are the reasons for our concern:


  • The animals involved include threatened species on Appendix II of the CITES list such as the Serval cat, Crowned crane, Lesser flamingo and Hippopotamus. The export of such species sends the wrong signals internationally and undermines Kenya ‘s future ability to lobby and safeguard endangered wildlife species within the CITES framework.
  • According to a 2004 report by the Department of Remote Sensing and Resource Survey , Kenya ‘s wildlife population declined by 40-60% between 1977 and 2004. This massive reduction has continued unabated due to the rampant illegal bush meat trade, excision of forests and widespread encroachment into parks and reserves for human settlement. We note with concern that the wildlife population figures advanced by the government spokesman are not based on any known national wildlife species census and, consequently, cannot be reliably used to justify the export.
  • There is evidence of drastic decline and even localised extinction of some wildlife species in habitats across the country. We believe that there are more ecological and economic gains to be had from restocking such habitats from overpopulated areas (e.g. elephants from Shimba Hills to Tsavo), as opposed to token wildlife exports. Kenya has a hard-earned reputation for being compassionate and precautionary when it comes to the protection of its wildlife. This reputation, built over decades, will be placed in jeopardy by this single act, nullifying the international goodwill that accompanies it.
  • The process of capturing wild animals, caging them and transporting them over long distances is a procedure that should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary. For example, the relocation of endangered species such as the Black Rhino, and restocking of protected areas are essential wildlife management procedures. The intended Thai Zoo capture will certainly result in stress and mortality. In our opinion, it is neither essential nor necessary. Zoos worldwide can source animals from amongst themselves and not from the wild. Further, factoring in mortalities will demand that the total number of animals captured must surely exceed the designated 175.
  • The intended export undermines the authority of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), whose legislation superintends ALL other environmental laws. Section 53 (1) & (2) of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, for instance, lays out the specific conditions under which genetic resources, such as wildlife, can be transferred to non-citizens. Neither these conditions, nor the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment, have been met.
  • Kenya ‘s wildlife has evolved within our local environments for hundreds of thousands of years. There are real dangers, therefore, in taking them to an alien environment, where they may be exposed to potentially fatal diseases. There is also the risk of these animals transferring zoonotic diseases to Thailand . These are some of the issues we believe an Environmental Impact Assessment should have addressed before the MoU was signed.
  • The intended export is at odds with official national policy. Kenya has built an international reputation for its anti-wildlife trade stance. The intention to use wildlife gifts to gain diplomatic and economic leverage amounts to trade in disguise and is therefore, in our view, unethical. Economic gains, so far as Kenya ‘s wildlife policy is concerned, are meant to be incidental to conservation, and it is not clear whether this zoo is public or private enterprise. Note, also, that while Kenya banned wildlife cropping and consumption of game meat in 2003, the very facility to which our national heritage is destined had planned to offer exotic wildlife menus such as giraffe and lion meat. Although this plan has been rescinded, the proposal provides evidence of how far removed Thailand is from Kenya ‘s conservation values and policies.
  • Lastly, it is our responsibility to promote the growth of our national tourism industry. Support of the Chiang Mai Night Safari zoo will undermine inroads into the Far East Market, in which the Kenya Tourist Board has invested substantially. All the hard work may be lost because there is a strong likelihood of many international tourists who are attracted by our conservation values and policies shunning Kenya as a result of this export. This is unfortunate, because it has taken considerable human effort and financial resources to realise the resurgence of tourism in Kenya following many years of decline.

Finally, your Excellency, we would like to bring to your attention the fact that the Director of the Chiang Mai Night Safari Zoo, Mr. Plodprasop Suraswadi no longer sees any need for the animals from Kenya . He was quoted recently as saying ” Even if the 175 animals are not sent to Thailand it won’t affect the zoo as we have enough animals already and the animals from Kenya are species that we already have .” (Thai Day, 23 rd December 2005 )

We therefore humbly call upon you to reconsider this deal.

We remain most respectfully,

The Undersigned,

Amboseli Tsavo Conflict Resolution Committee

Animal   Outreach Society

Animal Protection Institute

Animal Voice of South Africa

Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights

Big Cat Rescue

Born Free Foundation  Kenya

Born Free Foundation UK

Born Free Foundation USA

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

Bravo Bend Wildlife Sanctuary

Canadians for Furbearing Animals

Care for The Wild International

Catholic Concern for Animals

Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage

Compassion in World Farming (SA)

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Eastern Africa Environmental Network

Elephant Voices

Friends of the Asian Elephant

GAP Project – Brazil

Green Alive

Gorilla Haven

Humane Education Trust (SA)

Humane Society International

Humane Society of United States

International Fund for Animal Welfare

Kenya Wildlife Coalition

Kenya Wildlife Conservation and Management Network

Kipeto Landowners Association

Kitengela Landowners Association


NARC Youth Congress

National CBO Council

One Stop Youth Information Resource Center

Pastoralists Information Bureau

Pegasus Foundation

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Virgin Bush Safaris

Wildlife Friends of Thailand

Wildlife Rescue

World Society for the Protection of Animals

Youth Center for Biodiversity Conservation

Youth Environment Network Kenya

Youth for Conservation

Youth Link

Youth for Conservation
P.O. Box 27689
Nairobi 00506
Tel: +254 (02) 606479
Telefax: +254 (02) 606478
Mobile: +254 (0) 733 617286


April 2008 Update:

A camera trap in Kedrovaya Pad reserve has captured rare footage of one of the world’s most endangered cats.

Eight Far Eastern Leopards were photographed in the reserve, located in the Primorsky Krai, during a census being conducted by WWF-Russia and the Institute for Sustainable Use of Nature Resources.

For Pavel Fomenko, coordinator of the biodiversity conservation program at the Armur branch of WWF-Russia, “the confirmed stability of the leopard population living in the territories of Kedrovaya Pad biosphere reserve and Barsovyi wildlife refuge warm our hearts and give hopes.”

“But this is only a small part of the leopard’s habitat in the southwest Primorsky. The remaining 70 per cent of leopard’s habitat are in precarious conditions.”

“The goal of utmost importance to create a unified federal protected area for the Far Eastern leopard has not yet been achieved in Primorsky”, said Fomenko.

Over the past years, scientists have been monitoring the rare cat’s plight using camera traps to develop effective measures to its conservation.

As tigers and leopards’ coloration is individual, the pictures are a way to compare and identify specimen. “The information we receive from camera traps can be processed through mathematic methods. So, by
comparing the different photographs taken at different intervals, we can estimate the real number of leopards living in a certain area”, said Vladimir Aramilev, Head of the Institute for Sustainable Use of Nature Resources. index.cfm?uNewsID=131901

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  1. they need to keep the population stable or else the ecosystem won`t be balanced and by the way i’m 10 years old and im smart and i saw a video were an amur leopord is caught in a trap it is just sad why would they do this

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