The endangered species list could be saying goodbye to a certain breed of large cat eventually. That doesn't mean they're about to die off though. Quite the opposite; this large cat, the rarest on Earth, has shown significant growth in numbers since 2007.
Nearly 10 years ago, the Amur leopard numbered about 30 in total, marking it as the most critically endangered cat on the planet, beating out the Siberian tiger. Both of these cats are moving up in numbers, but this isn't a call for hunters to make plans for capture. The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) would be quite upset by that, and animal activists would likely be their greatest ally.
Cameras were set up in the Land of the Leopard National Park to count the Amur leopard, and after collecting around 10,000 photographs, scientists used the distinctive pattern of spots on individual leopards to narrow the number down to the 57 that we have today, not counting about 10 of them living in nearby parts of China. That still makes these large cats extremely rare.
The Siberian tiger was numbered around 56 total in the area in 2009 and since then, due to the efforts of wildlife conservationists, that number has grown. About 350 others have been known to live in other parts of the Russian far east.
"Such a strong rebound in Amur leopard numbers is further proof that even the most critically endangered big cats can recover if we protect their habitat and work together on conservation efforts. There's still a lot of work to be done in order to secure a safe future for the Amur leopard, but these numbers demonstrate that things are moving in the right direction."Even though the large cat has nearly doubled in population in less than a decade, this feline is far from ready to leave the endangered species list. It's just not as rare as it was, but it's still among the critically endangered.
The Land of the Leopard National Park, founded in 2012, has been a positive influence on the population of these critically endangered cats, and if numbers continue to grow, we may just see the Amur leopard leave the endangered species list entirely.
That could take decades, and a lot can change in that span of time.
[Image via Oregon Zoo]