Conservation Biology

Friday, March 16, 2007


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.

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.


[1]. Miller, S. and Jackson, P. 2005. Amur leopards. AMUR, ICUH cat specialist group. [Cited 2007 March 12, 10h00]. Available from:

[2]. Wikipedia contributors. Amur Leopard [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2007 Mar 11, 13:33 UTC [cited 2007 Mar 12]. Available from:

[3]. Geocities. 1998. Endangered cats [Internet]. [Cited 2007 Mar 12]. Available from:

[4]. The Zoological Society of London. Unknown Date. Amur leopard conservation in Russia. [Cited 2007 Mar 13, 10h00]. Available from:,468,AR.html

[5]. Black, R. 2005. Rare leopards ‘Rare extinction’. BBC environment correspondent [cited 2007 Mar 09, 11h30]. Available from:

[6]. Miquelle, D. 2007. Amur Leopards. Wildlife Conservation Society. [Cited 2007 Mar 13, 14h00]. Available from:

Image Credits

Image 1:

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

The illegal trade in endangered rhinoceros species

There is an increasing conservation of endangered flora and fauna species at both national and international level. Endangered species means the species whose population is so small and is in danger of becoming extinct through out the world (1). Many species are facing with extinction due to the threat of illegal trade in wildlife and poaching. Presently the illegal trade of endangered species is a big problem all over the world. South Africa is the first country that tries to fight the illegal trade of endangered species (8).

Two hundred million years ago (Miocene era), mammals such as the rhinoceros were in abundant around the world. Today they are few rhinoceros left (5). The rhinoceros is a big mammal that belongs to the family of Rhinocerotidea and is the second largest terrestrial mammal around the world. The elephant is the biggest mammal on the land. Rhinos are faced with extinction because they are killed by people for their horns.

South Africa is considered as successful in nature conservation more especially in the conservation of white rhinos. In the beginning of 20 century, rhinos were almost extinct. During 1825 and 1900 the numbers of rhinos were declined by 50 individuals in Kwazulu Natal (5).

There is a huge demand for rhino horns in the market. Rhino horns have been in demand by different people like Arabs, Europeans, Africans, Chinese and Indians for different purposes or beliefs. Some Chinese people believe that the powdered horn of rhinos is used as a traditional medicines for treating fever (7).

Some people believe that a powder produced from rhino horns could cure many diseases, including diphtheria, nose bleeds and measles. Others believe that, a sip of water boiled with Rhino horns may help to cure chest pains, and can stop headaches, coughs and snakebites. Many people also believe powdered rhino horn helps to keep the energy of youth to contribute in sexual stamina. However, scientists say that this is a myth but people continue on poaching. Currently there are programs that work on conserving the rhinos from poachers such as, Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (5).

Rhinos are also killed by hunters to obtained their horns which are use to manufacture trophies as it worth a lot of money. Nationally, the use of rhino horns for medical purposes has been illegal since 1993. There is still a need for conservation of rhinos in South Africa as they add value in our economy because of their horns which are very much expensive in the market (5).

Currently rhinos face the threat of extinction in the wild. The remaining of rhino horns is abundant in east Africa. There are five different types of rhinos living; these are black rhino, white rhino, Indian Rhino, Javan Rhino and Sumatran Rhino (2).

The Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) prefers to live in grassland, tropical bushlands, and savannahs in Africa (3). Its diet is a browser using its upper lips to grasp branches, twigs, stems and leaves. D. bicornis and the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) have two big horns on their nose. D. bicornis and C. simum are mostly found in Southern and central Africa. C. simum lives in short-grass and long –grass savannahs It has a neutral grey colour (1).

The Indian Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) is found in southern Nepal and in Northern India but it prefers to live in riverine grasslands and in floodplains. R. unicornis feeds on fruit, leaves, trees, grasses, cultivated crops and shrub branches. The R. unicornis and the Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) have one horn and have brown-gray colour (8). The Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is found in Ujung Kulon National Park on the island of Java in Indonesia and it prefers to live in lowland tropical rainforest. The R . sondaicus are mostly browser but it can graze. The R . sondaicus has gray colour and hairless (7).

The Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is mostly distributed in Southeast Asia of Indonesia and Malaysia. It prefers to live in Tropical rainforest. D. sumatrensis Feeds on fruit, leaves, twigs and bark. The Sumatran Rhino has two horns and is red-brown in colour (6).

All rhinos are herbivores. All rhinos have large heads, thick legs, excellent hearing, broad chest and poor eyesight. All rhinos have no true horns as they do not have the bony cores that are found in other animals like sheep, goats and antelopes. The horns of rhinos are not attached to skull. Its horns have keratin fibers unlike those that are found in fingernails and hairs of human. Rhinos used their horns for several purpose; they use their horns to defend themselves and their young against predators (4).

The international trade in rhino horn indicate that the above mentioned rhinos are listed as endangered. The most endagered rhino today is black rhino because in 1900s they were abundant. In 1995, the black rhino were decreased to be less than 2,500 in number (3). A few decade years ago, the world rhino exceeded 100,000. Presently the world rhinos population are less than 11, 000 (3). The rhinos were decreased in number as a results of poaching and illegal trade of rhino horns.

The international traders place law agencies in South Africa to limit problem of illegal trade of endangered species and poaching. The South Africa authorities try to stop the illegal trade in the rhino horns (2).

The major rhinoceros population are found in South Africa National park including provincial reserve in Kwazulu Natal. Currently, all the reserves having rhinos are patrolled on a daily basis. During the patrol, the game rangers report any things that cause the mortality of rhino. The Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) makes vast contributions towards the purchase of specialised monitoring horns of rhino (5).

Today is not easy for one to buy the horns of rhinos because all over the province each stock of horns are marked and registered. The South Africa National Park (SANP) marks the rhino horns stocks and keeps the registers of all legal stocks (2). The horns of rhinos are marked with a number and serial number that includes codes for the place in which the horns where found. Rhinos are protected under the (CITES) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Agreements to limit the illegal trade on animals are made with more than 120 nations (2).

The WWF and Endangered Wildlife Trust are actively intervening in South Africa conservation by decreasing the problem of poaching and the level of illegal trade of endagered species. In South Africa, they said that anyone who poaches rhino or selling the horns of rhinos without permision will be given the fine of R100 000 or 10 years in prison. The legal trade in endangered rhinos will help to protect the remaining rhinos from extinction.


1. Wikipedia contributors. endangered species [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2007 Mar 13, 22:33 UTC [Cited 2007 Mar 14]. Available from:

2. Robert Savannah,1998. Rhinoceros [Online].[Cited, 13 March 2007]. Available from:

3. Anonymous. 2006. South Africa Conservation.[Online].[Cited, 13 march 2007]. Available from:

4. E. Martin, 1983. Rhino exploitation [Online].[Cited, 12 March 2007]. Available from:

5. Home page. Rhinoceros [Online].[Cited 11 March 2007]. Available from:

6. Barger N, 1995. endangered species- Rhinoceros [Online].[Cited, 09 march 2007]. Available from:

7. Jessica D. Rhino [Online].[Cited, 14 March 2007].Available from:

8. Kathleen E, The Illegal Trade in Endangered Species1; African security review[Internet]. 1997 [Cited, 11 March 2007] 6 (1). Available from:

Linette Netshiheni




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