The Extremely Rare Far Eastern Leopard

An international team led by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s biologists caught a Siberian tiger and soon after that they captured a species of cat that looked very similar to one that is on the world’s most endangered big cat list, that being the extremely Far Eastern Leopard. There are approximately only 30 of these big cats left in the wild.

The international team and biologists had caught a male cat weighing 45 kgs in Southwest Primorski Krai, which is less then 20 miles from the Chinese border. Before they could release the leopard out into the wild again, a group of scientists from WCS, an Institute of Biology and Soils of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity of the National Cancer Institute conducted a series of medical evaluations as well as collecting its sperm so that they could investigate how good its reproductive capacity was to see if this might be one of the reasons why this leopard subspecies is decreasing.

This group of leopards come from a 19th century northeastern Asian subspecies and could be found extending over southeastern Russia, northeastern China and the Korean peninsula. The Far Eastern leopard is the most northern leopard subspecies and is the only one worldwide that can make it through the long snowy winters. This species of leopard has slowly become endangered due to poaching, loss or fragmentation of habitat because of roads or fires, and the growing human population.

With there being only 30 leopards left, the Far Eastern leopard is more endangered then the Siberian tiger and so interest in the genetic make up of this animal is of primary interest. Until now there was little, if any, information of this animal to be able to assess inbreeding or the risk of disease. With data now being collected on this animal, more information and appropriate action can now be taken. If inbreeding is a problem then new genetic material can be introduced as was done with the Florida panther. This will only be decided once it has been ascertained necessary for the Far Eastern leopard based on the sample produced by the male Far Eastern leopard.


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