Amur Leopard

Scientific name: Panthera pardus orientalis

Picture of an Amur leopard
The critically endangered Amur leopard inhabits temperate forests of eastern Russia. Photo © Comstock Images / Getty Images.

The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a critically endangered subspecies of leopard. Scientists estimate that there are only 25 to 57 individual Amur leopards that live in the wild. After decades of habitat destruction, poaching, and hunting of its prey, the Amur leopard has been restricted to a tiny fragment of its former range. Their territory is now restricted to parts of eastern Russia, but in the 19th century, the range of the Amur leopard extended from southeastern Russia, through Northeast China, and into the Korean peninsula.

 

The Amur leopard is an oddity among leopard species. Unlike its relatives who inhabit the warm savannas of Africa, the Amur leopard is well adapted to the cold mountain habitats of Russia's Far East. The Amur leopard has long limbs that enable it to walk through deep snow. When the seasons turn cold, the Amur leopard sheds its shorter, golden colored coat in favor of a longer, lighter colored coat which provides it with added insulation and camouflage.

The Amur leopard lives in the forests of the Sihote Alin Mountain Range where much of the year it encounters deep snow and harsh climates. It relies on roe deer, sika deer, wild boar, musk deer, and small mammals such as hares and badgers for its food supply. Amur leopards are solitary cats.

The Amur leopard can leap more than 19 feet horizontally and is capable of jumping vertically as much as 10 feet. They can also run at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour.

The latest census data for Amur leopards is positive. Their numbers have increased during recent years and a new population has been identified in areas of Russia near the border with China. Conservationists hope to soon establish a nature reserve for Amur leopards that straddles the Russia-China border.

 

Amur leopards can be distinguished from other subspecies of leopards by their thicker coat that consists of long, dense hair. Their coat color is lighter in winter (light yellow to orange) and darker in summer (rusty orange). Amur leopards are smaller than other subspecies of leopards and male Amur leopards are larger than female Amur leopards.

Amur leopards establish terrtories that are often located near a river and includes the surrounding basin area. Their diet consists of large mammals such as sika deer, musk deer, roe deer, wild boar, as well as some smaller mammals such as hares and badgers.

The threats to Amur leopards include habitat degredation, habitat destruction, poaching, and declining genetic diversity. A captive population of Amur leopards consists of over 150 individuals in zoos around the world. These captive individuals are the descendents of nine Amur leopards that were taken into captivity in 1961.

Amur leopards become sexually mature at 3 years of age. Their reproductive life lasts until the age of about 15 years. The breeding season for Amur leopards is in spring and lasts through early summer. Litters consist of between one and four cubs that wean after 3 months.

Young Amur leopards remain with their mother until the age of about two years.

Classification

Amur leopards are classified within the following taxonomic hierarchy:

Animals > Chordates > Vertebrates > Tetrapods > Amniotes > Mammals > Carnivores > Cats > Large Cats > Leopard > Amur Leopard

References

Burnie D, Wilson DE. 2001. Animal. London: Dorling Kindersley. 624 p.