An endangered species is a population which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either fewer in numbers, threatened by changing environment or is preyed upon by another species. Destructive human activities have threatened the population of many animal species and the places they call home. The current rate of species extinction is at least 100–1,000 times higher than the expected natural rate! Conservation efforts have brought many animals back from the brink of extinction and helped to protect our wildlife for future generations, however there are still many animals whose future population is endangered.
Most leopards are rarely found in cold environments, but instead live in the savannas of Africa where populations are relatively stable. However, the Amur leopard – a rare leopard subspecies – lives in the temperate forests and harsh winters of the Russian Far East. These magnificent creatures are deadly hunters of deep forests, roaming large areas in search of prey. Their long, thick coat and long legs help them survive the cold and deep snow of eastern Asia – and they’ve been known to leap more than 19 feet horizontally and more than 9 feet vertically!
Amur leopards are a critically endangered species, although in some parts of the world, they are still being poached for their skins, in addition to their bones for use in traditional Asian medicines. Agricultural land and villages surround their remaining forest habitat, making access relatively easy for poachers. Their four main threats facing the Amur leopards include unsustainable logging, forest fires, land conversion for farming and poaching for the illegal trade of their unique spotted coats, which grows as long as 7cm in winter. In the past 5 years the numbers of Amur leopards have dwindled, with only 7 to 9 leopards identified each year. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) support anti-poaching activities in wildlife refuges and all Amur leopard habitats in the Russian Far East, with programs to stop the illegal trade in Amur leopard parts and increase the population of leopards’ prey, such as roe deer, sika deer and small wild boar.