Photo census of young animals conducted at Land of the Leopard National Park

Photo census of young animals conducted at Land of the Leopard National Park

4 March 2014

A photo census of young animals was conducted in Leopard Land National Park on the eve of National Cat Day. In 2013, camera traps recorded six leopard cubs in specially protected natural areas under the jurisdiction of Leopard Land. The new residents appear to be healthy and eating well, and are ready to take their place in a growing leopard family.


In March 2013, the park’s research department began photo monitoring of the Far Eastern leopard. For this purpose, the national park was equipped with some 200 automatic cameras. The researchers have already collected all the necessary information and are analysing it. The number of animals is determined by a careful examination of spot patterns using special programmes and simple visual comparison.


Photo monitoring also makes it possible to determine the age composition and the male-female ratio of the leopard population.


One of the questions the researches seek to answer is how much the population has grown this year. This is complicated by the fact that it is difficult detect a female leopard with a cub using camera traps or other means. Leopard cubs spend the first month of their life in a safe shelter – a den in a secluded place like a small cave with a narrow entrance, gaps and holes in piles of boulders. Cubs begin to see on their seventh day and begin to walk on the 13th day, but they don’t leave the den and follow their mother until they are two to three months old. That’s the first chance to photograph them.


In the second half of 2013, cameras recorded six cubs.


Three cubs, born to a leopard named Kedrovka, are already well known to the public. They were photographed for the first time at the end of October 2013 in Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve. The cubs are now around one year old. As the lactation period in leopards lasts three to six months, the cubs are now being taught to hunt. At the age of 9-10 months, cubs are capable of walking alone. The cubs leave their mother at one and a half years, and begin to search for their own territory or inherit their mother’s.


The cameras also recorded another two female leopards with cubs.


A leopard with a six-month old cub was photographed only once, on 2 August, in the north section of the national park. But this does not provide any grounds for concern. Female tigers with cubs are very careful and move around their territory only in search of food, as opposed to, for example, male tigers who regularly inspect and patrol their territory.


Another female leopard with two cubs aged between 12-18 months was twice recorded by cameras in the central section of the national park. The young family was photographed for the first time on 6 November 2013. The cubs, already quite big, were following their mother in the photo. Cubs between 5 and 6 months old typically walk in their mothers’ tracks in winter when deep snow presents a serious obstacle to small tigers. Later, the cubs follow behind their mother or move in parallel with it. The leopard family was next spotted on 3 December. First, one cub was recorded by the camera. An hour later, the second cub appeared. Half an hour later, the mother arrived followed by the first cub. This means that the cubs are independent enough to go off on their own for extended periods of time.  


It is quite difficult to identify the age of cubs. Exact data can be obtained only through longtime tracking and monitoring of individual animals. The age of the cubs can only be estimated between six months and one year old. Long-term monitoring shows that Far Eastern leopards and related species reproduce in any season, so cameras can catch a new little inhabitant of Land of the Leopard National Park at any time, each of which gets a special “passport” with information on its skin spot pattern.