Researchers collect data for genetic monitoring on Land of the Leopard

Researchers collect data for genetic monitoring on Land of the Leopard

21 January 2015

Researchers from Land of the Leopard National Park have collected the first 80 samples for the genetic monitoring of Far Eastern leopards and Amur tigers since they started this work during the New Year’s vacation. About half of them belong to leopards and the other half to tigers.


Genetic monitoring consists of three stages. At first specialists gather fur and excrement of these predators, then they extract their DNA and study it with special equipment.


“Genetic monitoring offers an opportunity to obtain the most detailed information about these predators: their numbers, age and gender structure and, most importantly, their family connections. The latter is the main advantage of this method over others,” the park’s Deputy Director for Science and Environmental Education Yelena Salmanova said.


This method is fairly complicated. Excrement has to be frozen to preserve the DNA structure. Therefore samples can only be collected during winter frosts. Meanwhile, it is possible to understand whether a sample fits the requirements and the number of individuals it was collected from only in laboratory conditions.


“While collecting samples, we are also tracking wild cats,” the park’s monitoring engineer Viktor Storozhuk said. “We follow the tracks of leopards and tigers to study their customs and habits, but sometimes fail to find samples for genetic research. Yesterday we followed a female leopard the entire day but were not able to collect any samples.”


If weather conditions permit, researchers will continue collecting genetic samples on Land of the Leopard until the end of winter. These samples will be sent for DNA analysis to the Institute of Biology and Soil of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Finally, the genetic material will be sent under a cooperation contract to a Chinese laboratory where researchers conduct parallel studies. Exchange of materials will make it possible to establish how many leopards and tigers cross the Russian-Chinese border.