August 8th, Changchun—A preliminary survey by WWF and its partners shows that 5-7 Amur leopards are speculated to live in Southern Laoyeling of Heilongjiang Province and these leopards are believed to become a steady population there.
Amur leopard, a subspecies of leopard, is on the brink of extinction with only 50 individual left in the wild across the world. Amur leopards can only be found in Northeastern China and Russian far-east area, while Laoyeling area serves as a core area in China side.
The survey was jointly implemented by General Administration of Heilongjiang Forestry Industry, Heilongjiang Wildlife Institute and WWF from January to November 2013. The total survey area is 1,500 square kilometers in Dongning Forest Bureau and Muling Forest Bureau in Southern Longyeling of Heilongjiang Province.
During a previous survey in 2012, around 8 to 11 Amur leopards were speculated to live at Hunchun-Wangqing area in Jilin Province.
An overall Amur leopard records in Heilong Province was systematically collected, especially in Southern Laoyeling area. Based on the analysis, the key survey areas were scoped. The survey methodologies were a combination of transects, questionnaires, informant interviews, and infrared camera records.
Also, the survey looked into the main prey of Amur leopard. Among the four ungulates living in Southern Laoyeling of Heilongjiang Province, roe deer and wild boar, which are main prey for Amur leopard, are relatively densely populated whereas sika deer and red deer are less populated. These results indicate that Amur leopard has an abundant pool of prey in this area.
“No matter from which perspective we look at - the Amur leopard distribution itself or the amount of its prey, the future for a steady recovery in the wild population at Heilongjiang area is very promising,” said Sun Haiyi, the group leader of this survey, deputy director of Heilongjiang Wildlife Institute . “However, given the limitation of investigation field, we suggest that more complete research should be implemented in other areas as soon as possible.”
Also, Mr. Sun suggested that other advanced technologies, such as infrared camera, could be applied to estimate population and identify individual leopard. In this way, scientists could know more about how Amur leopards live and distribute across Heilongjiang Province.
This survey has provided valuable experience for further research on Amur leopard population in other areas. And meanwhile we are delighted to see that the protection of Amur leopard has punched its weight with the joint efforts of WWF and the Chinese government, senior manager of WWF China Shi Quanhua remarked.
Zhang Shusen, section chief of Wildlife Protection Department, General Administration of Heilongjiang Forestry Industry, said that his department would further its endeavor in the investigation of Amur leopard population, and these survey results will play a key role in a landscape-based Amur leopard strategic conservation plan in the coming year.