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The Amur leopard, registered beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway, successfully settled down in a new area

27 september 2022
The Amur leopard, first recorded at the end of 2021 beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway, stayed in the new territory at Severnaya hunting lease in Nadezhdinsky district of Primorye. The spotted cat is regularly captured by camera traps and even once appeared to people
Let’s recall that in December 2021, a large male Amur leopard was spotted by several camera traps set up beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway, in places remote from the population core. The predator was captured by camera traps fixed by wildlife photographer Igor Metelsky and WWF Russia, which, together with the Rehab Center TIGR, conducts wildlife monitoring in Severnaya hunting lease in Nadezhdinsky district of Primorsky province.
The appearance of a leopard in these areas has become a sensational news, since the last confirmed facts of the presence of spotted cats here were recorded about 50 years ago. The specialists of the Land of the Leopard National Park, who verified the personality of the “pioneer”, identified that this animal had not previously been registered in the territory of the national park, and assigned him a personal identification number - Leo 224M and the name Casanova (translated from Italian as “new home”).
After the discovery of Casanova, WWF specialists together with the staff of the Rehab Center TIGR kept a closer watch of the leopard using camera traps, expanded the photo-monitoring network in Severnaya hunting lease to new, previously uncovered by camera traps areas, and organized more frequent checks of automatic cameras.

Leopard Casanova in Severnaya hunting lease

Within seven months from the moment of the first fixation, the pioneer leopard was regularly spotted on WWF's camera traps set up in different locations of the hunting lease. Moreover, the animal was recorded by cameras fixed on the territory of the hunting lease by specialists from the Land of the Leopard NP. In early September, the staff of the Rehab Center TIGR has personally encountered Casanova not far from the enclosures of the rehabilitation center and recorded a short video. The leopard showed himself from afar, resting on a slope of the hill. By the video specialists figured out that the animal has successfully settled down in the new area, is in excellent physical shape and has no problems with hunting.
According to Alexey Kostyria, Ph.D., head of the rare species conservation department at WWF Russia Amur branch: “After the discovery of Casanova in Severnaya, the main question was how the animal would behave further. Will it try to return back crossing the Trans-Siberian Railway, will it go further east, or will it stay on the territory of the hunting lease for a long time, securing these lands as its hunting ground. So far, everything indicates that Casanova chose the latter, which is quite understandable - there is a good prey base, suitable landscape and a minimum number of competitors out of other large cats. Of course, not enough time has passed to draw final conclusions, but the intermediate results of Casanova's stay in Severnaya are encouraging and give hope that this is only the beginning in the inevitable and expected expansion of the range of the Amur leopard in the territory of the historical habitat - the southern Sikhote-Alin. We will continue to monitor this leopard, and together with our partners we will work to identify the most convenient places for leopards to cross the Trans-Siberian Railway and ensure their safety.”

Historically, the Amur leopard home range in Russia covered the entire south of Primorsky province, but over the years, the number of spotted predators has significantly decreased to almost 35 individuals in the wild by the beginning of the 21st century. Over 10 years, the Land of the Leopard NP with the support of ANO Far Eastern Leopards, has been carrying out intensive environmental work to preserve the rarest cat, including taking measures against poaching and forest fires.

The increase in the wild population of Amur leopards to already 121 adults and the appearance of a leopard in such remote places speaks of the effectiveness of this work. The key to the preservation of the unique animal is the expansion of the range, which centuries ago occupied almost half of Primorsky province.

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