New hope in midst of Russian big cat crisis
Friday 4 May 2007
The Russian Government has announced a raft of new measures to save the Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), the world’s most endangered big cat, from extinction. The announcement came following action by numerous conservation organisations, including AMUR, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and IFAW, urging for increased protection of the species.
The measures announced included massive increases in fines for poaching of the species, as well as plans to consolidate the three national parks currently home to the big cat, with greater protective measures put in place. Fines for the poaching of leopards and tigers will be increased by thirty times, to six hundred thousand roubles or approximately one hundred times the annual Russian minimum wage. Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the Russian Environmental Protection Agency, outlined the plans and reiterated the Russian Government’s commitment to protect the country’s biodiversity.
"To date, penalties for poaching this endangered animal in Russia have been completely derisory,” commented Sarah Christie, ZSL conservation programme manager. “A female Amur leopard was very recently found in the Russian forests, slaughtered by poachers. With only around thirty individuals left in the wild, the species simply cannot afford to lose a breeding female to this kind of illegal human activity. The huge increases in fines being introduced by the Russian Government could not be more timely or more essential.”
The dead female Amur leopard was found in the Barsovy National Wildlife Reserve in southern Primore, Russia. A post-mortem was undertaken by ZSL and Wildlife Vets International, which found that the animal had been shot at the base of the tail, incapacitating it, and had then been beaten around the head with a blunt instrument such as a hatchet, causing death. The loss of this individual could have significant ramifications for the reproductive potential of the tiny remaining wild population.
Sharon Miller, Founder of AMUR, stated, “The new resolve of the Russian Government is immensely significant and a huge step forward in the fight to save this extraordinary and charismatic species from extinction.”
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Notes to editors
High resolution photographs of Amur leopards and the recent Amur leopard post-mortem available upon request – contact Alice Henchley (ZSL Press Officer)
- 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. www.zsl.org. ZSL is one of the key members of ALTA (the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance), a consortium of conservation organisations working in partnership to protect the Amur leopard and tiger; information on ALTA’s Amur leopard programme can be found at www.amur-leopard.org
- AMUR is an Anglo-Russian charity founded in 2001, whose patrons include Sir Roderick Lyne, former British Ambassador to Russia, and Lord Fairfax. www.amur.org.uk
- The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. There are currently estimated to be between 25 – 34 Amur leopards left in the wild, distributed in south-west Primorskii Krai, between Vladivostok and the Sino-Russian border. Male leopards can weigh up to 50kg, females as little as 35kg, and they are carnivorous, feeding mainly on deer. The leopard inhabits mixed forest environments and has long fur and limbs to help it withstand the freezing weather.
- There are currently approximately 130 Amur leopards held in zoos throughout Europe and Russia; all are part of a conservation breeding programme coordinated by ZSL.
- Since April 2004, Oleg Mitvol has been Deputy Head of the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor), Russia’s environmental protection agency.
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