Tag Archives: leopard

Golden Pheasant.

Reforestation efforts bring back hundreds of species to China

China’s reforesting, and their efforts are bringing back species that had previously disappeared from the country’s lands.

Golden Pheasant.

The golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). Image credits Petr Kratochvil.

For the past few decades, China has been pursuing an ambitious project — to increase the amount of land covered by forests to 23% of the country’s total land area by 2020.

Not only is this good news for Chinese nationals, who have been struggling with the country’s notoriously high levels of pollution, but also its wildlife. The resurgent forests are bringing back species to Chinese habitats from which they were previously considered extinct, report researchers from the Beijing Normal University (yes, that really is their name).

Hot new real estate

Using infrared cameras hidden in the Ziwuling Forest Area in Yan’an, Shannxi province, northwestern China, the team documented the presence of several rare species previously thought extinct in the area. The observations are quite encouraging, spotting the largest population of North-Chinese leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) ever recorded in the region.

Other notable appearances include the golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) — a species that has established populations around the world — foxes, and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Reforestation projects have been underway around Yan’an since 1998.

“The nature reserve has a large population of wild boars and roe deer, as well as small and medium-sized carnivorous animals such as ocelots and red foxes,” Feng Limin Feng, associate professor from Beijing Normal University, told China Plus.

Overall, the team has documented 263 different species in the area. Eight of these are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List, and 29 others are listed as threatened. Such a diverse ecosystem is a major leap forward for the area, traditionally devastated by logging and deforestation.

“If it was not for environmental protection we’ve undertaken, it’s likely none of these animals would have survived,” Feng adds.

The reforestation efforts are part of China’s larger drive to improve environmental protection and combat climate change.

As we’ve written earlier today, climate change and habitat erosion together pose a massive threat to the viability of Earth’s ecosystems. I’m glad to see China tackling the issue from the roots up.

Lioness mother spotted breastfeeding baby leopard — an absolute first

A unique wildlife interaction has been captured on camera for the first time: in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a lioness is breastfeeding a baby leopard.

It all started when Panthera President and Chief Conservation Officer Dr. Luke Hunter received some photos of the astonishing moment. The images show a 5-year-old lioness called ‘Nosikitok’ suckling what appears to be an abandoned leopard cub. He was stunned.

Same-species caring is not unprecedented in nature. Inter-species caring for wild cats is extremely rare, and between lions and leopards, it’s the first time something like this has been observed — despite the very strong maternal instincts of lionesses.

“This is a truly unique case,” Dr. Hunter said. “I know of no other example of inter-species adoption or nursing like this among big cats in the wild. This lioness is known to have recently given birth to her own cubs, which is a critical factor. She is physiologically primed to take care of baby cats, and the little leopard fits the bill—it is almost exactly the age of her own cubs and physically very similar to them.

“She would not be nursing the cub if she wasn’t already awash with a ferocious maternal drive (which is typical of lionesses),” he continued. “Even so, there has never been another case like it, and why it has occurred now is mystifying. It is quite possible she has lost her own cubs, and found the leopard cub in her bereaved state when she would be particularly vulnerable.” This wouldn’t have happened if the lioness didn’t have cubs of her own and the maternal instincts hadn’t kicked in.

However, despite this touching moment, the chances for the adorable little leopard are not looking too good. It’s not clear if his mother had abandoned him. In the best scenario, the little cub simply strayed away from his mother and would reunite with her soon. Without help from his own mother, it’s unlikely that the lion pride will accept him, even if Nosikitok does. Lions have very complex social relationships and signals, and if the leopard ventures into the pride, the other lions will likely recognize it as a stranger and kill it.

So the leopard would be best off with its mother, but if it somehow defies all odds and survives with the lions for at least a year (the minimum necessary period for a leopard to become independent), then it can make its own living. Hunter believes that even growing up in a lion pride won’t make the leopard act like a lion; as soon as he can make it on its own, he will return to its species’ habits.

“Even its early exposure to lion society would not override the millions of years of evolution that has equipped the leopard to be a supreme solitary hunter,” he said. “I am sure it would go its own way.”

South Africa bans leopard hunt for 2016

It costs $20,000 to shoo a leopard, and foreign hunters flock to South Africa every year to kill leopards for trophy hunting. This year, because leopard numbers remain nuclear, South Africa has decided to ban hunting for the year.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute, a government research organisation, recommended the temporary ban because they can’t properly estimate the number of remaining leopards.

“There is uncertainty about the numbers and this is not a permanent ban, but we need more information to guide quotas,” John Donaldson, its director of research, told Reuters news agency.

However, this is just a temporary measure, officials were quick to announce. South African Environment Minister Edna Molewa is a vocal advocate of the hunting industry, and the country earns more than $400 million every year by allowing tourists to kill animals within their borders.

Leopards are part of the so-called “Big Five”, alongside lions, rhinos, buffaloes and elephants. Hunting all of the Big 5 has been legal in South Africa since the 1980s. Trophy hunters usually use traps (like skewered impalas) to lure leopards, which they then shoot from a safe location. Several hunters already paid the $20,000, and they will be refunded.

Most hunters and conservationists say that legal trophy hunting in Africa has a positive effects, raising funds for maintaining both the wildlife and its habitat. But the hunt is not without opponents, who argue that the hunt is often conducted improperly and it is also unethical to conserve populations by killing animals.

In India, leopards are now backyard wildlife

A recent study led by WCS-India scientist Vidya Athreaya finds that certain areas in India, in which human settlements have greatly expanded, and which, as a result, are basically devoid of wilderness are teeming with another type of backyard wildlife: leopards.


Camera traps set up at night in a densely populated region of India virtually devoid of wilderness revealed not only leopards, but also striped hyenas, jackals — and lots of people. This kind of thing has never been reported before, so what’s going on in there?

The study, called “Big Cats in Our Backyards,” appeared in the March 6 edition of the journal PLoS One, highlighting 5 different leopards just going about human settlements. But interestingly enough, the incidence of attacks is extremely low. The leopards are simply trying to adapt to their new environment, and so far, they’re doing a very good job, without posing much of a threat to humans.

Vidya Athreya and Ullas Karanth of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Centre for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore and their team say that the findings show that conservationists must look outside of protected areas for a more holistic approach to safeguarding wildlife.

“Human attacks by leopards were rare despite a potentially volatile situation considering that the leopard has been involved in serious conflict, including human deaths in adjoining areas,” said big cat expert Ullas Karanth of WCS. “The results of our work push the frontiers of our understanding of the adaptability of both humans and wildlife to each other’s presence.”

Something rather similar has happened in Romania, with bears instead of leopards. The bears, devoid of their natural habitats which were invaded by humans and lacking food, gathered around villages and touristic areas, some of them even starting to beg for food. From what I know, the impact of this behaviour has still not been documented properly, but it is already having some visible negative effects, on both human and animal.

You can read the entire study here.

Snow Leopard den

Snow leopard mother and cub den caught for first time on tape [VIDEOS]

Snow Leopard denMagnificently beautiful, the elusive snow leopard is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia. Adapted to living in high altitudes, deep in the mountains, and preferring typically inaccessible areas for humans as their dens, has made snow leopards extremely hard to spot, and more importantly keep track off, since it’s an endangered species. Actually, just until recently, there has been no recorded footage of a snow leopard den.

Now, following the research work of scientists from Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization, and the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT), not one, but two snow leopard dens have been located and filmed. Little is known about the elusive species, and this recent discovery will serve as an invaluable piece in the puzzle which serves to describe the life story of the snow leopard.

“We have spent years trying to determine when and where snow leopards give birth, the size of their litters, and the chances a cub has of surviving into adulthood. This is one of those exceptional moments in conservation where after years of effort, we get a rare glimpse into the life of an animal that needs our help in surviving in today’s world. These data will help ensure a future for these incredible animals,” stated Dr. Tom McCarthy, Executive Director of Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program.

Scientists, along with a veterinarian, entered the two dens (one with a cub, the other with two), while the mothers were away hunting. The three cubs were carefully measured, weighed, tagged with a chip the size of a grain of rice, and photo documented. The team monitored the mothers’ locations to ensure that they returned to their dens and their cubs, which they successfully did.

“Knowledge about the first days and weeks of life is vital to our understanding of how big cat populations work, and how likely it is for a newborn to reach adulthood and contribute to a healthy population. A valid conservation program requires such information, which this new development in snow leopard research provides,” said Dr. Howard Quigley, Panthera’s Executive Director of both Jaguar and Cougar Programs.

The gathered information in the upcoming months from their present effort, coupled with camera traps footage, information from captive specimens in zoos and whatever little else scientists know about the snow leopard will help organizations in their conservation plans.

A rare Amur leopard was photographed for the first time at the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in northern China. (Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve /Courtesy)

Rare and elusive Amur leopard captured on photo for first time in China

A rare Amur leopard was photographed for the first time at the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in northern China. (Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve /Courtesy)

A rare Amur leopard was photographed for the first time at the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in northern China. (Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve /Courtesy)

The Amur leopard is a beautiful leopard subspecies native to the region of the Russian far east, which since 1996 has been classified as critically endangered. Only a handful of specimens remain today, however a photo which surprised an Amur leopard in China suggests that the species’ numbers are steadily increasing, and conservation efforts are beginning to show signs of promise.

The photo was captured by one of the camera traps spread across the Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province in northern China. Most of the wild Amur leopard population lives across the border in Russia, where last winter  camera traps snapped photos of 29 individual leopards. It’s now estimated that between 8 and 12 individual Amur leopards live in the Chinese province, as well.

via Global Post