Amur leopard and tiger conservation

Amur leopard

Amur leopards of the Russian Far East are in dire straits, with less than 50 animals left. Until zoos took up its cause in the mid-90’s, the Amur leopard was almost unknown, but it has now featured in several documentaries, and the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA)  funds several conservation projects to protect it. Amur leopards are in BIAZA's ‘Top ten species most dependent on BIAZA zoos’ for 2012. As part of ALTA, ZSL is working with other zoos to build up a captive population that may be used to release leopards back into the wild in the future.

Why we are there

The Amur leopard once ranged across northern China, the Korean Peninsula and southern areas of the Russian Far East, but is now found only in a small part of southwest Primorskii Krai in Russia. Because it is adapted to the snowy winters there, it has a thicker, paler coat than leopards found in Africa or India. Its remaining wild population declined rapidly and it is estimated that only 40-50 individuals remain alive. This is as a result of habitat loss due to fires that are deliberately set each spring, and by hunting of leopards and their prey species. Economic development is another threat because this area contains important shipping ports. The tiny leopard population is extremely vulnerable to inbreeding depression, natural catastrophes and disease.

The Amur tiger is one of the largest living cats on the planet. Though its populations are less troubled, it also suffers from similar threats and its numbers are  still low enough to be of concern.

Amur Leopard Conservation

ZSL is a coordinating member of ALTA and maintains the ALTA website to provide the public with information about Amur leopard conservation. Leopards are monitored using camera traps and snow track counts, which show that only 40-50 leopards remain in the wild. Though this number is stable and potentially increasing, human settlements on all sides of its range mean that they are still very vulnerable. ZSL and partner NGOs plan to create a second population of Amur leopards in a reserve in their former range. ZSL co-ordinates both the European/Russian zoo conservation breeding programme, and the global zoo conservation breeding programme in partnership with Moscow Zoo We currently have over  200 captive Amur leopards as an invaluable safety-net population, and hope to carry out releases soon.

Wildlife Health Project

To protect both Amur leopards and tigers, ZSL conducts a wildlife health project, which provides veterinary training, a diagnostic laboratory and biological sample collection in order to set a baseline for future disease monitoring work.

Amur Tiger

The Amur tiger is one of the largest living cats on the planet, but its populations had been falling. Thanks to continuing conservation effort by ZSL and partners in Lazovsky State Nature Reserve since 2006, this is now one of the only tiger subspecies with a relatively stable population. We use camera traps to track poaching on tigers, and are building relationships with people in this area to increase the awareness of protecting these fantastic animals.

Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance logo

Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA)

Visit the ALTA website for more information

Project information

Key species

Amur Leopard, Critically endangered

Amur (or Siberian) Tiger, Endangered

People involved

This project is run by tiger biologist Linda Kerley and her husband Misha Borisenko, an expert wildlife tracker.

 Jo Cook is the European Coordinator for the Amur Leopard Breeding programme.

Partners and sponsors

ZSL is part of the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA). The ALTA website provides information about both the Amur leopard and tiger and about the conservation projects it funds. There are also fundraising ideas, news items and photo galleries so have a look!

Other partners: Primorskii State Agriculatural Academy (PSAA); WCS Russia; AMUR; Lazovsky National Park; Wildlife Vets International

Kindly funded by: Darwin Initiative; Gift Aid; Dorothy Howard Charitable Trust; Mohammed bin Zayed Species Fund; BBC Natural History Unit; ALTA; Save the Tiger Fund; Indianapolis Zoo; The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry; USFWS Rhino-Tiger fund; Segre Foundation