First steps towards new wild leopard population
Monday 20 March 2006
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has been awarded a crucial grant of over £177,000 from the Darwin Initiative for the establishment of a wildlife health monitoring service to protect the critically endangered Amur leopard and other endangered wildlife. The monitoring programme will ultimately be a first step towards possible reintroduction of this beautiful leopard.
The Amur leopard is arguably the world’s most endangered cat, with as few as 30 animals now surviving in the Russian Far East. With such small numbers, the transmission of infectious diseases such as canine distemper and canine parvovirus to wild cat populations is a serious threat to their survival.
Sarah Christie, Conservation Programme Manager at ZSL and European Coordinator for the Amur leopard breeding programme said:
'Disease survey work will be conducted on wild and captive leopard populations, on their prey, and on domestic animals suspected of passing diseases on to wild leopard populations. This work will form the basis for a strategy to minimise disease transmission between wild and domestic animals, in particular the endangered Amur leopard and Amur tiger. It will also be used to assess and reduce the disease risks associated with the establishment of a second wild leopard population through the reintroduction of captive-bred animals.'
This crucial project will develop local capacity in wildlife health surveys and monitoring. Currently there are no facilities for this, nor fully trained Russian wildlife vets, in the entire province where the leopards are located – Primorski Krai. This project will provide hands-on training for Russian veterinary students and vets over a three year period and fully equip the provincial veterinary hospital and diagnostic lab to carry on the work for the future.
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Notes to editors
In Africa, transmission of infectious diseases recently resulted in the loss of a third of the Serengeti lion population.
Amur leopard facts
Distribution: south-west Primorskii Krai, between Vladivostok and the Sino-Russian border.
Vital statistics: A male might weigh up to 50 kg; a female as little as 35 kg.
Prey: Mainly deer.
Habitat: Hills covered with mixed forests with a variety of trees, including Korean pine
Captive population: There are about 100 Amur leopards that are part of a co-ordinated conservation breeding programme throughout Europe and Russia.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in other countries worldwide including Russia. www.zsl.org
For further information on Amur leopards, please visit www.amur-leopard.org
The Darwin Initiative is a small grants programme that aims to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of resources around the world. The Initiative is funded and administered by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (Defra). http://darwin.defra.gov.uk/
Joanna Green - 020 7449 6236 - firstname.lastname@example.org