Conservation Biology

Friday, March 16, 2007

WHY CONSERVE THE AMUR LEOPARD?

The amur leopards are classified in the phylum Chordata from the kingdom Animalia, they are of the class Mammalian from the family Felidae and genus Panthera [1]. The amur leopard, Panthera pardus, is a subspecies of Panthera pardus. orientalis [2]. Male amur leopards weigh between 32 and 48 kg and females weigh between 25 and 43 kg [3]. The P.p. orientalis has long fur and legs that help the leopards to cope with harsh and cold conditions, its fur grows to about 2.5 cm long during summer and 7 cm [Image 1] in winter [2]. The amur leopards are found in the mountains of Russia, Sikhote-Alin and in the northern mountains of North Korea [4]. These beautiful cats are now faced with extinction.


Image 1: Amur leopard during winter with a fur of 7cm.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_Leopard

The world’s rarest cats, Panthera pardus are carnivores, skilful and opportunistic hunters feeding on sika deer, roe deer, hares, badges and small rodents [2; 4]. Richards Black of BBC environment correspondent reported that the conservationist warned that the amur leopards are facing extinction in the wild, due to the action that Russian’s government took. Richards further indicated that the Russian government approved a pipeline of oil to pass through the only habitat of the leopards in the harsh eastern coast. As a result, about 30 amur leopards survived in the wild [5].

The factors that can cause Panthera pardus to extinct are habitat destruction, trophy hunting and fur poaching. The amur leopards are hunted because some people need the coat and some needs their bones because they used them for Traditional Chinese Medicine [1].

Increase in human population in the northeast of China and their use of forest resource has excluded the amur leopards. People in the southeast of Primorye are forced to rely on local forest products because of poor economy. The poor economy encourages poaching [6]. The habitats of amur leopard change from forest to grassland because of the fire caused by human. Leopards are not suitable on the open grasslands [6]. It is important that we conserve the habitat of amur leopards because we will be conserving them. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is successfully managing the fire by using the satellite images to monitor the fire. The ZSL is reducing the burn every year by up to 2/3 [4].

The Amur Leopards and Tiger Alliance (ALTA) designed conservation strategies for the Amur leopards and that include protection of the leopards from the illegal hunting and habitat destruction, awareness programmes with local communities and scheme for deer farmers. Michiel Hotte of ZSL is working with the local Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as Phoenix aiming to design and implement anti-poaching patrols, fire fighting strategies and education programmes and providing funds for local livestock [1,4].

The ZSL in partnership with Moscow Zoo are co-ordinating a conservation-breeding programme of the amur leopards in the zoos. They reported that there were 100 leopards in their zoo and that it is necessary to conserve the leopards in the wild. Educating people, researches and fundraising can help in the conservation of the leopards. The ZSL have to do more because human beings are ignorant, some might stop hunting the leopards while others might not stop especially if they do not have other alternative that they use to find money. People hunting the amur leopards illegally must be prosecuted. The Russian government should re-route the oil pipeline that pass through the habitat of the amur leopards as requested by the expert, ZSL.

References:

[1]. Miller, S. and Jackson, P. 2005. Amur leopards. AMUR, ICUH cat specialist group. [Cited 2007 March 12, 10h00]. Available from: http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/Panthera_pardus_orientalis/more_info.html

[2]. Wikipedia contributors. Amur Leopard [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2007 Mar 11, 13:33 UTC [cited 2007 Mar 12]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_Leopard

[3]. Geocities. 1998. Endangered cats [Internet]. [Cited 2007 Mar 12]. Available from: http://www.geocities.com/rainforest/vines/2689

[4]. The Zoological Society of London. Unknown Date. Amur leopard conservation in Russia. [Cited 2007 Mar 13, 10h00]. Available from:
http://www.zsl.org/field-conservation/carnivores-and-people/amur-leopard-conservation-in-russia,468,AR.html

[5]. Black, R. 2005. Rare leopards ‘Rare extinction’. BBC environment correspondent [cited 2007 Mar 09, 11h30]. Available from:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4197737.stm.

[6]. Miquelle, D. 2007. Amur Leopards. Wildlife Conservation Society. [Cited 2007 Mar 13, 14h00]. Available from:
http://www.wcs.org/international/Asia/russia/Amurleopard

Image Credits

Image 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_Leopard


Ms Evelyn Maleka
CILLA CSIR
P.O. Box 395
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 841 2133
Fax: (012 )841 4405

9 Comments:

  • Hi Evelyn, I have read and enjoyed your article. One thing I like to suggest. It is good to start by giving background of Amur leopard in the Introduction of your article. “Amur leopard is one of the big species that are listed in the list of endangered species. Between 1970 to 1983 the Amur leopards lost their habitat (http://www.cathouse-fcc.org/amurleopard.html). The habitats of amur leopard change from forest to grassland because of the fire caused by humans”. You have covered a lot of some good points. I like the fact that you have covered the policies that are dealing with the conservation of Amur leopard.
    All in all I like your article.

    By Blogger linette, at March 19, 2007 11:44 AM  

  • Hi Linette

    Thanks for your comment and I like your suggestions, I will consider that.

    By Blogger Maleka Evelyn, at March 19, 2007 2:25 PM  

  • A very intriguing topic. A few pointers, though...Panthera pardus orientalis is a subspecies of Panthera pardus. And family and class names should be capitalized when mentioned the way you did.

    By Blogger NcK, at March 22, 2007 11:08 AM  

  • Thanks Nic

    I have made some changes.

    By Blogger Maleka Evelyn, at March 23, 2007 8:30 AM  

  • hi Evelyn

    lot of female celebrities prefers fur jackets. i once read this article in a magazine that some celebrities are against killing of animals and using the fur for clothes but still those celebrities go and buy the fur clothes.
    the jackets which are made of animals fur are beautiful and warm. i know that the killing of animals is against the law but their furs are warm.

    By Blogger Lethabo, at March 26, 2007 2:38 PM  

  • Hi Lethabo

    You raised important point and that is true. Do you think that people will ever stop hunting the leopards if that is the case, knowing and understanding the celebrity life?

    By Blogger Maleka Evelyn, at March 27, 2007 11:22 AM  

  • Hi Evelyn
    You raised an important topic, I was not aware that the amur leopards are faced with extinction. There are other major threats of the amur leopard that include: the imporished of the genes of the amur leopard population which occurs as a results of the inbreeding and it belongs to the group of the ungulates animals which makes them good meat for the predators. Unfoutunately it seems as the amur leopards are not available in Africa.

    By Blogger peter, at March 28, 2007 1:03 PM  

  • You didn't seem to answer the question you posed in the title. Why should we save the amur leopard. Is it for aesthetic reasons? If there are so few left, they probably don't have a major impact on their ecosystem, so what is their importance? Other predators will presumably move into fill their niche. I am just asking this, because I didn't have an adequate answer beyond aesthetics, and I was trying to come up with a better argument myself.

    By Blogger Eric, at October 20, 2008 8:43 AM  

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