Tuesday, 17 February 2015


I have said before that to me leopards are, with snow leopards, the most bewitchingly beautiful big cats. With its long fur, handsome face and large black spots, the most gorgeous extant form of the species is the Amur leopard.

Amur leopard and cub by Anne-Marie Kalus

Estimates of the wild population vary, with the Zoological Society of London saying there are fewer than fifty and some believing numbers may be as low as twenty. Today I saw this heartbreaking infographic by memuco on Twitter and reproduce it here (with permission).

Though protecting the remaining wild population and its habitat is critical, the Amur leopard may now effectively only be saved in captivity. Twenty to fifty wild individuals simply do not represent a sustainable genepool or enough of a population to recover numerically. Among the remaining wild Amur leopards only half are female and only half of those are likely to be of reproductive age. If they survive a female's cubs are by her side for two years, during which she can have no further cubs. The mathematics of the situation, even if poaching can be stopped, are stark.

On my return from Asia I will be writing here about the role of zoos in cat conservation, both in captivity and in the wild. They are, alas, the last hope for this sensational animal.

We must work in the world; the world is thus.
No, Senhor Hontar, thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it.

The Mission (film)

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