Amur Leopard Scientific Classification
KingdomAnimaliaPhylumChordataClassMammaliaOrderCarnivoraFamilyFelidaeGenusPantheraScientific NamePanthera pardus orientalis
Amur Leopard Locations
Amur Leopard Facts
PreyDeer, Cattle, hares, small mammalsEstimated Population Size103 as of 2018Biggest ThreatPoaching and habitat lossGestation Period90-105 daysHabitatForestsPredatorsHuman poaching and competition with Siberian tigersDietCarnivoreAverage Litter Size2-3 cubsLifestyle
Common NameAmur leopardLocationRussia’s Far EastSloganThe Amur leopard may be the rarest big cat on Earth!GroupMammal
Amur Leopard Physical Characteristics
Skin TypeHairLifespan10 – 15 years in wild; up to 20 in captivityWeight25kg – 48kg (55lbs – 106lbs)Length90 cm – 180 cm (3ft – 6ft) excluding tail
Amur Leopard Images
Amur Leopard Scientific Name
The scientific name for the Amur leopard is Panthera pardus orientalis. The genus Panthera covers big cats ranging from tigers, to lions, to jaguars and leopards. Pardus originates from Greek and means ‘spotted,’ while orientalis relates to the geography Amur leopards inhabit, having been first described in Korea.
Amur Leopard Appearance
Like all leopard subspecies, the Amur leopard is covered by ‘rosette’ markings across its coat. The coloration on leopards varies with their surrounding environment, and as the Amur leopard lives in the most northerly environment of all leopard subspecies, in winter its coat becomes more pale than other subspecies. During the winter, its coat also grows about 7 cm (2.75 in) to insulate the Amur leopard from temperatures in its habitat that can reach -30 degrees Celsius (-24 F).
Male Amur leopards typically weigh 32 to 48 kg, while females weigh 25 to 43 kg. This makes the Amur leopard smaller than the African leopard subspecies on average, although The Wild Cats Conservation Alliance has recorded male Amur leopards reaching 75 kg (165 lbs).
Amur Leopard Behavior
The Amur leopard is largely solitary with the exception of mothers with their offspring and adults during mating season. Like other leopard subspecies, the Amur leopard hunts nocturnally. However, camera traps have shown the species may be more active than other leopard subspecies during daylight hours.
Home range sizes vary depending on the habitat, food available, and the season. While home ranges have been observed exceeding 160 square km, the core areas where Amur leopards hunt is typically much smaller.
Amur Leopard Habitat
Today, Amur leopards lives in a small range along the Chinese-Russian border. Traditionally the subspecies ranged across Korea, and upper Manchuria. However, today almost its entire population lives in Russian forests about 30 mi (48 km) to the west of the Russian port city of Vladivostok.
Temperatures in this region can top over 30 degrees Celsius (90 F) during the summer and can drop below negative 30 degrees Celsius (-24 F) during the winter, making it a more extreme environment than where other leopards live. Amur leopards are most commonly observed on camera traps in higher altitudes along the temperate forests in the hills and mountains of the region.
Amur Leopard Population — How Many Amur Leopards Are Left?
In 2000, a survey of Amur leopards found that as few as 30 individuals remained in the wild, leaving the species critically close to extinction. Since that survey, a concerted effort by conservation groups and the governments of Russia and China has helped the population rebound.
Russia created a ‘Land of the Leopard Park’ that covers 647,000 acres of leopard habitat. Today, the vast majority of leopards live within the borders of this protected habitat.
As of 2018, its estimated that at least 103 leopards live in Russia, with a smaller number of sightings occurring across the borders of China, and North Korea.
Amur Leopard Diet and Prey
The Amur leopard is a carnivore that lives on a diet consisting predominately of sika deer, roe deer, and other small mammals such as squirrels, rodents, and hares. A solitary hunter, the Amur leopard ambushes its prey with bursts of energy that include tremendous leaping ability and speeds of up to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h).
Like other leopard subspecies, the Amur leopard can climb trees for resting and also protecting its kills from other predators and scavengers. Due to the extreme environments Amur leopards live in, winter proves more difficult when less prey is available and snow makes it difficult for leopards to blend in with their background. During this time, Amur leopards will expand their home range in search of more available prey.
Amur Leopard Predators and Threats
The Amur leopard faces few threats from predators, aside from humans who have hunted Amur leopards for their coats. While the Amur leopard is a top predator in their habitat, their range does overlap with the Siberian tiger.
In many regions where tiger and leopard territories overlap, leopards have struggled with the competition of another apex predator. However, researchers watching the growth of Siberian tiger populations haven’t detected an adverse effect on Amur leopards.
Amur Leopard Reproduction and Life Cycles
Amur leopard females reach sexual maturity and can first breed at around three years of age. Gestation periods range from about 90-105 days. Litters can range between 1 to 6 cubs, although 2 to 3 cubs is the most common litter size.
Due to the extreme conditions Amur leopards live in, it takes longer to raise an adolescent to independence than leopard subspecies in Africa. Cubs may live with their mother for up to 24 months before establishing their own territory.
Amur Leopard in Zoos
While the remaining population of Amur leopards in the wild remains critically low, approximately 300 survive in zoos across the world.
Select zoos where you can see the Amur leopard in person:
- Beardsley Zoo(Bridgeport, Connecticut): Welcomed two new Amur leopard cubs in March, 2019.
- Minnesota Zoo: Located in the zoo’s “Russia’s Grizzly Coast” section.
- Santa Barbara Zoo: Home to two Amur leopards, Ajax and Wyatt.
- Hogle Zoo (Salt Lake City, Utah): Home to Zaya and her calf Jilin, who was born In May, 2018.
- Denver Zoo: First arrived at the zoo in 1989!
Amur Leopard Facts
A tunnel to help save the Amur leopard?
- In 2016 Russia completed a 575 meter (1,886 ft) tunnel to divert traffic from an area where remaining Amur leopard populations remained. Russia and China have cooperated on protecting remaining Amur leopard populations. While the Chinese side of the border is more densely populated, the Russian habitat is largely uninhabited. Which has helped the species rebound.
The Amur leopard has tiny hooks on its tongue!
- The amur leopard has “denticles” or tiny hooks on its tongue. These hooks allow the leopard to lick the bones of its prey and collect even more meat.
New habitat reintroduction could be in the Amur leopards future
- While the wild population of Amur leopards has rebounded to more than 100 individuals as of 2018, the population in captivity remains far larger. Special environments such as Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park have built specialized Amur leopard habitats with the goal of creating populations that can be reintroduced into the wild. The reintroduction of captive Amur leopards could increase the size of their habitat and continue increasing genetic diversity from today’s levels.