The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a leopard subspecies native to Russia and China. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and is considered one of the rarest cats on Earth.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
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A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
A cursorial organism is one that is adapted specifically to run. An animal can be considered cursorial if it has the ability to run fast (e.g. chee...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Ambush predators are carnivorous animals that capture or trap prey by stealth, luring, or by (typically instinctive) strategies utilizing an elemen...
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Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Polygynandry is a mating system in which both males and females have multiple mating partners during a breeding season.
The Amur leopard can easily be differentiated from other leopard subspecies by its thick, pale cream-colored fur, particularly in winter. Rosettes on the flanks are widely spaced, up to 2.5 cm (0.98 in), with thick, unbroken rings and darkened centers. Its fur is fairly soft with long and dense hair. The winter coat varies from fairly light yellow to dense yellowish-red with a golden tinge or rusty-reddish-yellow. In summer, the fur is brighter, with a more vivid coloration pattern. It is rather small in body size, with males larger than females. The North Chinese leopard was first described on the basis of a single tanned skin which was fulvous above, and pale beneath, with large, roundish, oblong black spots on the back and limbs, and small black spots on the head. The spots on the back, shoulders, and sides formed a ring around a central fulvous spot. The black spots on the nape were elongated, and large ones on the chest formed a necklace. The tail was spotted and had four black rings at the tip.
Amur leopards are native to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and northern China. They are well adapted to the cold climate and heavy snowfalls. Their habitat includes broadleaved and conifer forests in mountainous areas, where the annual average temperature is about 1.5 °C (34.7 °F).
Amur leopards are solitary and only females spend time with their offspring. They are usually active during the day during both the summer and winter seasons. Amur leopards are extremely conservative in their choice of territory. The territory of two individuals overlaps sometimes, but only slightly. Depending on sex, age, and family size, the size of an individual's territory varies from 5,000-30,000 ha (19-116 sq mi). Leopards use the same hunting trails, migration routes, and even rest places over the course of many years. They are resident at places where wild animals are abundant and follow herds of ungulates. When the density of ungulates is low, leopards have large home ranges of up to 100 km2 (39 sq mi). When hunting, leopards depend mainly on their acute senses of hearing and vision. They usually hunt on the ground stalking their prey and trying to approach as closely as possible, typically within 5 m (16 ft) of the target; then they pounce on it and kill the prey by suffocation. Leopards produce a number of vocalizations when they need to communicate with each other; these include growls, snarls, meows, and purrs. The roaring sequence in leopards consists mainly of grunts, also called "sawing", as it resembles the sound of sawing wood. Cubs call their mother with an ‘urr-urr’ sound.
Amur leopards are carnivores. They prey on Siberian roe deer, Manchurian sika deer, Manchurian wapiti, Siberian musk deer, Amur elk, and Ussuri wild boar. They also catch hares, Asian badgers, fowl, and mice. They also prey on young Asian black bear cubs under two years old. Female leopards with cubs are often found in the proximity of deer farms. The large number of domesticated deer on the farms is a reliable food source in difficult times.
Generally, leopards have polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system in which both males and females mate with a number of mates. Female Amur leopards give birth to 2-3 cubs after the gestation period of 92-95 days. A newborn cub weighs 500-700 g (18-25 oz). The young open their eyes 7-10 days after birth and begin to crawl on the 12th-15th day. By the second month, they emerge from their dens and also begin to eat meat. Cubs are weaned when 3 months old, and then learn to hunt. Lactation continues for 5 or 6 months. They reach independence at the approximate age of 2 to 3 years and stay with their mother until they are around 18 months to 2 years old. Juveniles sometimes stay with their mother until she is ready to mate again. Amur leopards become reproductively mature at the age of 2-3 years and are able to reproduce up to 10-15 years of age.
Amur leopards are threatened by poaching of both individuals and prey species, habitat loss, and deforestation. Their natural habitat is threatened by forest fires and the construction of new roads. Due to the small number of reproducing Amur leopards in the wild, the gene pool has such low genetic diversity that the population is at risk of inbreeding depression. Poaching of Amur leopards is, however, the main threat to their survival. Leopards are most often killed by local Russians from small villages in and around the leopard's habitat. These villagers hunt entirely illegally; they have no licenses for hunting or their guns, are not members of one of the local hunting leases, and hunt Amur leopards (a protected species under Russian law). Human-induced fires are another main threat to the survival of the Amur leopard. Setting fire to fields is a habit of rural farmers who start them for a particular purpose, such as improving fertility for livestock grazing, killing ticks and other insects, making scrap metals visible so that they can be easily collected, culling vegetation along train tracks, and stimulating fern growth. Young ferns are sold in shops, served in restaurants, and also exported to China as a popular dish. Due to a long and frequent fire history, much of the land in south-west Primorye (Russia) has been converted from coniferous forests (suitable leopard habitat) to open "savannah" landscapes with grass, oak bushes, and isolated trees that leopards seem to avoid (most likely due to low ungulate densities).
According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Amur leopard is less than 60 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.
Leopards play an important role in the local ecosystem as they control the numbers and health of the populations of wild ungulate species.