A Far Eastern leopard known as Leo 80M, who was found in Land of the Leopard National Park on the border with China in June 2015, was born and grew up in China, as evidenced by photo and video materials provided by Chinese scientists.
Scientists from Beijing Normal University have provided research data for the past three years during the first exchange of photo information about the Far Eastern leopard. Russian specialists analysed these materials and concluded that some leopards, including Leo 80M, moved about in both Russia and China.
"Leo 80M is a wonderful example of the efficiency of the cross-border project for the study of Far Eastern leopards. Thanks to the information we receive from our Chinese colleagues, we now know more about each individual leopard. For example, before crossing into Russia, Leo 80M was tracked in China in the autumn of 2014, when he was an adolescent. This shows that he is at least 18 months old, slightly older than the Russian scientists believed. Since he was not recorded by trail cameras in Russia before, we can conclude that this leopard was born and grew up in China," said Yelena Salmanova, the national park's deputy director for research and environmental education.
It's unclear where Leo 80M injured his paw, but, based on the inspection of the wound, Russian scientists believe that he probably fell into a poacher's trap in China. The biggest dangers to the world's rarest leopard species are fires and poachers' guns in Russia and the noose trap in China.
"Animals that are caught in a noose trap either die or lose part of their paw. The Chinese authorities have been fighting this problem, but experts say that noose traps are still used in China's border regions," said Tatyana Baranovskaya, Director of Land of the Leopard National Park.
Leo 80M, who was taken to the Center for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals for treatment, is recovering well. For the past two months, the centre's experts have been watching him catch prey that is released into his large enclosure, which he does quite well, despite having lost three nails on his front paw.
The park's experts will decide if the leopard is ready for life in the wild this autumn.