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For the first time in the history of the study, the Amur leopard was recorded on camera traps beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway
Премия рунета 2017

For the first time in the history of the study, the Amur leopard was recorded on camera traps beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway

12 january 2022
The Amur leopard was caught on camera traps set by WWF Russia and photographer Igor Metelsky at the "Severnaya" hunting lease in Nadezhdinsky district of Primorye. The animal most likely has crossed the urbanized valley of the Razdolnaya River, the Trans-Siberian Railway and entered the historical part of its range in southern Sikhote-Alin Mountains.
On December 30 and 31, 2021, the Amur leopard was captured on video of several camera traps. The rarest cat on the planet got into the frame of the camera trap of professional photographer Igor Metelsky @igor.metelskiy, as well as the camera traps of WWF Russia, which together with the Tiger Center, a local NGO, monitors wild animals in the area. A large male leopard, in good physiological condition, actively marks the territory. Since the cameras fixed the cat several times in a short time it can be assumed that the animal was not far from its prey. A warning whistle of a sika deer is heard on the video. In the coming days of January, it is planned to survey this area to collect additional scientific information.

Amur leopard beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway © Igor Metelsky / WWF Russia

"The appearance of a leopard beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway is rather not a sensation but a predicted pattern. Animal movements across the railway and a highway in the Khasan area have been recorded and are being recorded. Of course, large territorial predators with an increase in numbers cannot live like "herrings in a barrel" within a narrow strip of southwestern Primorye. They naturally settle in China, and in the northwest, and as now– in the historical part of their habitat in southern Sikhote-Alin, notes Pavel Fomenko, chief coordinator of the rare species conservation program at WWF Russia Amur branch.
WWF Russia
“Perhaps the pioneer animal will later move on and now is staying temporarily in "Severnaya" which provides favorable habitat conditions. WWF Russia together with the hunting club has been practicing in the area the models to increase the number of wild animals for almost five years. Territory protection has been ensured here, a system of supplementary feeding stations has been created and the number of ungulates – potential victims of tiger and leopard hunting - is high. To ensure the cat protection it is important to understand where it can move. It is also important to figure out which of the leopards went beyond the "perimeter".
Screenshot from the cameratrap © WWF Russia
The Amur leopard key habitats are the southwestern Primorye on the border with China, within the Khasansky, Nadezhdinsky, Ussuriysky districts, and a small section of North Korea hedged by the spurs of the East Manchurian Mountains.
"I am pleased to realize that my hobby helps solving the mysteries of wildlife and, even more significantly, contributes to its conservation. This is a cool result and an unexpected gift at the end of the year. It is important that the smallest population of the planet’s rare cat is multiplying, showing the success of nature conservation on the national level," says photographer Igor Metelsky.
The places where the Amur leopards can move after having crossed the urbanized Razdolnaya River valley are theoretically the most forested and most closely connected mountainous areas. There are few of them, and one is located in the delta area of the river and further along the so-called "Tavrichansky corridor", where a camera trap shot the rare cat. It was here, where a leopard was hit by a car on the road in the 90-s of the last century. Another key section is the "Baranovsky Corridor" which requires close attention to ensure the transit of large predators to the southern Sikhote-Alin, was designated in 1996 in the resolution of an international conference held in Vladivostok on the initiative of WWF. At the conference, an Action Plan for the Amur Leopard Conservation was developed, which became the basis of the Strategy for the Amur Leopard Conservation in Russia, approved in 1998. And even then, they seriously discussed both the issue of giving a special status to these territories for leopards’ transit, and the afforestation of these areas.
Created in 2012 in the southwestern Primorye, the "Land of the Leopard" National Park has significantly strengthened the capacities of this territory. Over ten years of its work with the active support of the "Amur Leopards" NGO it has become possible to move the endangered species away from the dangerous line and increase the population from 35 to 110 animals.

Amur leopard beyond the Trans-Siberian Railway © WWF Russia

"The natural movement of predators outside the habitual habitat is a good sign, indirectly showing the growth of leopards’ number and, of course, the effective work of the governmental agencies and public environmental organizations. I think that when we understand the possibilities of such “travel” we should very seriously regard the tasks of the "Strategy for the Amur Leopard Conservation". Among them are the optimization of farmlands use for leopard conservation, the restoration of indigenous ecosystems of coniferous and broad-leaved forest, especially in places of potential crossings, the creation of conditions for the movement of predators and ungulates across linear objects, the preservation of existing protected areas and ensuring a sound nature management regime along the way. All this will allow us to saturate their historical range with animals and guarantee the survival of the species," comments Peter Osipov, head of WWF Russia Amur branch.
In 2019, with the support of WWF within the leopard’s historical range, a regional "Komissarovsky" Refuge was created in Primorye, designed, among other things, to receive the leopards from the main core of the population that might move to the northwest of the region, settling in the historical habitats. WWF supports the "Nezhinskoe" hunting club which borders the "Land of the Leopard" National Park to combat forest fires and ensure a high density of ungulates. WWF continues its joint work on population photomonitoring in the southwestern Primorye with the "Land of the Leopard" National Park and Chinese colleagues.
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