The first-known camera trap photos of an Amur leopard in China have recently been taken by protected area staff in Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Coupled with Jilin Province’s recent announcement of a survey estimating 8-11 leopards across that northern province, the photographs suggest that leopards may be returning to China.
Beginning last month, the Hunchun Reserve’s staff set up 16 camera traps in areas where tiger or leopard tracks were found during winter surveys. A dozen of the camera traps were donated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has been active for over a decade supporting Russian-Chinese transboundary conservation of Amur tigers and leopards. Several images of Amur tigers were also taken.
Most of the remaining Amur leopards live across the border in Russia, where collaborative camera trapping efforts by WCS, WWF, the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Biology and Soils, and the Institute for Sustainable Use of Natural Resources photographed a total of 29 leopards last winter in a portion of the newly created Land of the Leopard National Park. Estimates of the total number of Amur leopards have hovered around 30 since the mid-1970s, but these combined Russian and Chinese results suggest that leopard numbers may be rising to 40 or more.