Researchers consider settling Far Eastern leopards in southern Primorye

Researchers consider settling Far Eastern leopards in southern Primorye

3 May 2017

Experts from Land of the Leopard and employees of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the Russian Academy of Sciences are exploring the issue of settling Far Eastern leopards in the southern Primorye Territory. According to their estimates, the population of leopards in a limited space in southwestern Primorye is close to the optimal limit.


Experts are considering potential options to return leopards to the forests of southern Primorye. It is impossible to significantly increase the population of the rare cats in the national park, because their habitat is small and is bounded by the Japanese Sea in the south and the formidable estuary of the Razdolnaya River in the east. As of today, the only migration option for the spotted predators is to move westward, to China.


“Every area has its limits, and the proportion of leopards to their food supply in the national park is close to optimal. Nature has responded to people’s efforts: leopards have inhabited all of the protected areas of the southwestern Primorye Territory and have begun returning to the regions where they have not been seen for decades. Experts outside the national park say they saw leopards in their areas, so we are witnessing an expansion. Since we are speaking about a very rare animal, this relocation process should be closely managed by experts,” said Sergei Naidenko, acting deputy director for research at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution and a member of the Land of the Leopard research and technical council.


The main obstacle for the expansion of the rare predators is the federal motorway A370 Ussuri (Vladivostok-Khabarovsk). Plans call for building ecoducts ‒ wildlife crossings above the motorway ‒ so that animals will not only be able to safely cross the road, but also communicate and increase the genetic diversity. In April, experts inspected the motorway to look for potential crossing sites.


Another approach, which might be used together with ecoduct construction, is reintroduction, that is, the creation of an additional population of the Far Eastern leopard. Leopard cubs that were born in captivity will undergo a special training programme, and those who show good hunting skills and avoid humans will be released into the wild. According to the experts, the forests of the Ussuri Nature Reserve or the southern slopes of the Sikhote-Alin mountain range in the Lazovsky Nature Reserve are suitable for this.