Leopards: an indicator
of ecosystem status
An ecosystem is an integrated, harmoniously working mechanism. The elimination of any seemingly insignificant element from it brings about the most serious changes in the entire system. Therefore, the preservation of the maximum possible number of animal species is an important goal. Each species is unique and essential both for nature and humans. If endangered species are not saved, the balance in the natural environment will be upset.

All animals on earth participate in the food chain. That is to say, the some species are a food source for others that are higher up in the food pyramid. Large predators (the Far Eastern leopard, the Amur tiger) are at the top of the food pyramid in their region.

The state of the spotted wild cat population is key to the healthy functioning of the entire Far Eastern ecosystem. After all, predators regulate the number of animals below them in the food chain. For example, herbivores multiply quickly enough, and in the absence of predators, can sharply increase their population and exert great stress on vegetation, which will be unable to restore itself. This will result in a global food shortage and the extinction of all animals.
Far Eastern leopard
© Parken Zoo Eskilstuna
The Far Eastern leopard, like other leopard subspecies, has a wide array of food sources and eats everything it can procure regardless of size – from small rodents to big deer and in some cases possibly even bears. In hunting, predators optimise their energy consumption: A lot of energy is used up to hunt a small animal, but there is little food as a result. When hunting a big animal (deer), energy consumption increases insignificantly, but the prey is several times as large.

The Far Eastern leopard’s basic food source is Siberian roe deer and sika deer. These animals are its primary prey. The badger and raccoon dog are the leopard’s secondary food source, but nevertheless, they play a key role in its diet.

All other species, being random prey and making up an insignificant part of the leopard’s diet, still are a substantial addition to the primary types of prey. Leopards also eat salmonid fishes and frogs and catch birds, just like domestic cats.