New Russian park will protect world's rarest cat

Posted: 16 April 2012

A new protected area, which covers 60 per cent of all of the Amur leopard’s remaining habitat, was announced this week at a meeting of the Russian Geographical Society in Saint Petersburg.

By a resolution of the government of the Russian Federation, the Land of the Leopard National Park was established on 262 thousand hectares in the southwest of Primorsky Province in Russia’s Far East

Amur leopard
Amur leopard parenting cub. Camera trap image. © WWF-ISUNR

This single protected territory has the capacity to support the survival of at least 50 Far Eastern leopards and covers more than half of its remaining habitat, including all the sub-species’ known breeding grounds.

The area to be covered by the national park is also home to 10 Amur tigers, which are key for the connected Changbaishan population in China.

Population halved

“In the past 20 years, Amur leopard habitat has almost halved. The population has become critically low, numbering as few as 35 animals”, says WWF-Russia CEO Igor Chestin. “We are happy that one of the key measures listed in the official Amur Leopard Conservation Strategy – the creation of a unified reserve for its conservation - has now been implemented”.

The park will have a joint administration with the Kedrovaya Pad strict nature reserve. The government decision is accompanied by significant investment. Forty million Rubles (about US$1.3 million) are earmarked for the annual maintenance of the park, with around half a billion Rubles (US$16.6 million) promised to develop its infrastructure.

Amur leopard national park

The national park will include several zones. The strictly protected zone covers around 30 thousand ha of the most important habitat areas on the Borisovskoe Plateau. More than 120 thousand ha along the Russia-China border will have a special management regime aimed at protecting not only the leopard but also the state border.

Access to this zone will only be allowed by special permits. All farmlands, lands around towns and military territories will be included in the economic development zone (38 thousand ha), and private ownership of such areas will not be altered. The remaining forest areas (72 thousand ha) are included in the recreational zone, where development of eco-tourism is planned.

The Amur branch of WWF today celebrated this unprecedented win. It says that "12 years of grueling work" have led to this success. “Creation of the national park has only been possible through the active cooperation of the Primorsky Province government, the Ministry of natural resources and environment of the Russian Federation, and other state agencies, which have all helped to implement the Prime Minister’s order in such a short time”, says Igor Chestin.

Source: WWF