The Far Eastern Leopard SVG is the rarest cat on the planet. This is the northernmost subspecies of the leopard and the only one who has learned to live and hunt in the snow. This is the most peaceful subspecies of leopard and the only one who signed a pact of non-aggression with a man. But unfortunately, this pact was one-sided. Our leopard never attacks a man, and the man remains a deadly threat to him.
According to the results of the latest survey, in 2017, 86 adult spotted predators and 21 kittens were recorded in the Leopard Land protected area. A hundred years ago, these cats inhabited the entire Korean peninsula and two provinces of China. Today, the Far Eastern leopard is located in the south of the Primorsky Krai and north-east of China. For a long time, very few people knew about this unique animal in Russia, even in Primorsky Krai. Most of them were engaged in conservation of another rare cat – the Amur tiger, whereas since 1980s as a result of extermination the number of the Far Eastern leopard became critically low, amounting to only about 30 individuals. Thanks to government assistance and the work of conservation organizations, steps were taken in the early 2000s to save a rare predator. An important milestone was the creation of the Leopard Land National Park in 2012. The first results of the project are encouraging – the leopard population has started to grow. The area of its range is expanding, going beyond the territory of Russia. However, for the safety of the population, the population size should be at least 150 individuals. At present, the Far Eastern leopard is still on the verge of extinction. Hunting for the Far Eastern leopard has been banned since 1956, and the predator is listed in the IUCN Red Book, the Red Book of Russia, and a number of other security documents. Lifespan of leopards in captivity reaches 20 years, in nature – 10-15 years.
There are several reasons for the decrease in the range of the Far Eastern leopard: reduction of the forage base as a result of forest management and poaching of ungulates; hunting of predators themselves; destruction of habitats as a result of tree felling and forest fires. The flexible nature of the leopard allowed him to learn to live in close proximity to people. And although we give him a lot of concern, he manages to exist almost in the most populated corner of Primorye, remaining for the residents an elusive ghost.
Despite the fact that Leopards SVG are mostly introverted and any society will prefer their own, their courtship reveals their truly passionate nature. One spotty gentleman can pay attention to several ladies at once. The expectant mother approaches the issue of parenthood with all responsibility, carefully equipping the nursery in the scattering of stones, caves or under the canopies of rocks. The leopardess stays in the position for only 90 days and then gives life to two or three kittens. On the seventh or ninth day, babies open their eyes, and in two weeks they actively master the surrounding space, crawling across the nest. Tireless researchers are giving mom a lot of trouble in their quest to learn the world as soon as possible. A year from now, the adults are leaving their mother.
The Far Eastern leopard is significantly behind its fellow Amur tiger in physical terms. However, do not think that the smaller weight and size make him the worst hunter. On the contrary, unlike the tiger, the spotted athlete is a great climber. He prefers to live on hills, mountain ranges, hilltops. These skills allow the leopard to avoid dangerous encounters with the tiger and track the prey from afar. The conquerors of rocky slopes have sharp eyesight. The Far Eastern leopard can see potential prey from a distance of one and a half kilometers!
He’s a fast and quiet hunter with an amazing ear. This predator usually hunts for an hour or two before sunset and hunts in the first half of the night, although sometimes it also hunts during the day, especially on cloudy, cold days and in winter. Feeds on the leopard mainly on ungulates – spotted deer and roe deer. One spotted roe deer or deer suffices for a Far Eastern leopard for 10 days of well-fed life. It is important that the rulers of the taiga lands are very prudent owners. They never undermine the number of ungulates in their territory and kill as many as they can eat. Leopards are beautiful runners and swimmers. However, in hunting, they prefer to bet on their excellent skills in camouflaging and tracking prey.
The leopard is not a sedentary animal. He’s always walking through the territory. Every leopard has his own habitat. They regularly bypass the perimeter and also visit certain places to leave their markings. The color of a leopard’s skin depends on the season. In summer, the color of the fur acquires a brighter and more saturated shade, which perfectly masks the leopard. From the very birth of the leopard, the spots on his skin, the so-called sockets, form their own unique pattern, which is peculiar only to this animal. This pattern hasn’t changed in a lifetime like a man’s fingerprints. These are the stains that scientists use to distinguish one individual from another. The powerful neck allows this cat to pull and lift prey weighing twice as much as he does himself, and with a long tail he can jump from place to place up to a height of 5 meters.
If the Far Eastern leopard sees people in the taiga, he is skillfully hiding from them. The study of the Far Eastern leopard is carried out only by non-contact methods – with the help of photo traps and snow trails. Catching these rare cats is forbidden. Each leopard fixed by a photographic trap is assigned an identification number, for example, Leo 5F. Besides, leopards are also given names. Leopard Land is home to such predators as Grazia, Cleopatra, Lord and others.