Leo 80M, a Far Eastern leopard who is currently undergoing rehabilitation at the Center for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals, has found himself a new rest spot: he now spends most of the day watching his enclosure from the top of its highest tree. Real-time surveillance of Leo 80M has given researchers more clues to the behaviour of the world's rarest wild cats. Earlier, the only information they had was footage from trail cameras installed in the wild.
Though Leo 80M easily climbed trees before, he has taken a particular liking to his new "observation post," from which he has a full view of a neighbouring enclosure that holds young wild boars who will be released into his temporary home some day. It's unclear what caused this change in Leo 80M's behaviour. Perhaps he is reluctant to walk in snow or the proximity of wild boars annoys him. This could also be the way he reacts to a five-month-old orphaned female tiger who has recently been brought to the centre for rehabilitation and also lives nearby.
"It is no secret to scientists that leopards love high spots. For example, leopards of an African subspecies spend much time in trees, sheltering or eating their kill amid branches. Unlike the African savannah, the Far Eastern taiga offers leopards lots of other observation and shelter options. Nevertheless, during our onsite studies, we could often tell from leopard paw prints in snow that while stalking their prey, these cats often climb trees to get a better view and remain unseen," said Yelena Shevtsova, deputy director for research at Land of the Leopard National Park.
It has yet to be determined whether Far Eastern leopards living in the wild really use trees as rest spots, since the park's rugged landscape abounds in many other suitable shelters offering a nice view. Specialists continue studying Leo 80M's behaviour, trying to figure out what makes him spend so such time in a tree: a lack of elevated spots with a good view in the enclosure, his instincts or his personal inclinations.
Researchers also note that Leo 80M behaves like a healthy adult male, declaring his rights to his territory and prey by using the leopards' standard communication code: scent marks and vocalisation, or a warning roar.