A new decree gives hope for survival of thirty remaining Far-Eastern leopards
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the creation of a new nature sanctuary for the endangered Far-Eastern leopards.
The new protected nature area will join two small protected areas into one, called Leopardovy Zakaznik (Leopard nature sanctuary), and managed by the Ministry of Nature Resources of Russia. According to the decree, the ministry will also manage the bordering Kedrovaya Pad strict nature reserve.
Before the decree, the three protected areas had all been managed by different state agencies, which sometimes created confusion. The transition of all three areas under supervision of one ministry (and the merger of two of them) will help implement a single leopard conservation strategy on the whole protected area without wasting time on coordinating activities of different agencies.
WWF proposed this change as early as 1999, in its Strategy for conservation of the Far Eastern leopard in Russia. “We are happy that finally, after all these years, the government has addressed this issue”, says WWF-Russia CEO Igor Chestin. “We hope that the Ministry will immediately start improving management of the protected area to ensure effective leopard conservation. WWF is ready to provide help and advice to the new sanctuary”.
To ensure Far-Eastern leopard protection, WWF created anti-poaching groups in the region. WWF also cooperates with China to create a trans-border system of protected areas for the leopard and save its habitat from industrial pollution. Human dimension activities in the region raise local awareness of problems facing their rare cat species. Special education programs for custom officers help reduce illegal export of leopard parts to China. In 2007, WWF built a visit centre for the future protected area, which now will finally be given to the Leopardovy zakaznik.
The Far-Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is the northernmost leopard subspecies, and the only one in the world adapted to survive long snowy winters. With only about 30 animals left, the Far Eastern leopard is now facing extinction. Direct destruction of habitat (forest fires, timber cutting, road construction, industrial development and country house construction) is the first reason for the dwindling leopard population. Second is the increasing number of people visiting forests and disturbing the leopards. Third is poachers, who kill not only leopards but also its prey. The fourth threat is genetic problems, e.g. inbreeding.