The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is delighted to share the news that a plan for the reintroduction of Amur leopards into the Russian Far East has been formally approved by Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources. The site for the reintroduction has been agreed as Lazovsky Zapovednik (State Nature Reserve) in the South-Eastern-most tip of Russia.
The Critically Endangered Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is probably the only large cat for which a reintroduction programme using zoo stock is considered a necessary conservation action.
There are currently estimated to be between 50-70 left in the wild, in a small pocket of Russia between Vladivostok and the Sino-Russian border. Around 220 Amur leopards are currently in zoos throughout Europe, Russia, North America and Japan. All are part of a global conservation breeding programme jointly coordinated by ZSL and Moscow Zoo.
Established pairs of breeding leopards from the breeding programme will be transported to Russia where they will live in specially constructed enclosures. Here they will be allowed to breed and rear cubs, which will learn to live in that environment from the very start of their lives. Once they are suitably mature, the cubs will be released.
There is no fixed timeframe in place as yet but it has been suggested that construction of the facilities may start in spring 2016, and leopards could be released in 2017.
ZSL will soon start analysis of which leopards will be initially used.
More information about the reintroduction programme, including the approved plan, can be found on the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance website.