The critically endangered Amur leopard is a step closer to having its wild population expanded through a reintroduction program. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has announced that Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources has formally approved the reintroduction project.
Amur leopards may be released back into Lazovsky Zapovedink (State Nature Reserve) in the South-Eastern-most tip of Russia as early as 2017. First facilities for the reintroduction must be built with a view to this beginning in spring 2016.
Pairs of breeding leopards will travel to Russia and be released into specially constructed enclosures. It is not them that will return to the wild but the cubs they have. These will spend their whole life in this environment and learn to survive in this habitat. This means that once they are mature they will be able to survive in the wild and will be released.
ZSL will be responsible for determining which of the 220 Amur leopards which are held in European, Russia, North American and Japanese zoos will return to the wild. These are currently part of the breeding programme managed by ZSL and Moscow Zoo.
Currently Amur leopards number as low as 50-70 in a small pocket of Russia. It is the only large cat species where using zoo stock for a reintroduction programme is seen to be necessary for their future survival.
If you wish to see the whole plan go here: Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance
Photo Credit: By Art G. from Willow Grove, PA, USA (Amur Leopard) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons