Sixteen Far Eastern leopard cubs were tracked by trail cameras in Land of the Leopard National Park in 2015 and early 2016, which is nearly three times more than in 2014 when scientists only got images of six young predators.
National park experts said the cubs had been born from eight females. Their names are Grace the leopardess (Leo 23F), Sochi (Leo 21F), Alexa (Leo 27F), Umka (Leo 37F), and also three unnamed females Leo 39F, Leo 79F and Leo 63F. Queen Borte the leopardess (Leo 16F), whose Keeper is American actor Steven Seagal, had three cubs in her litter. Scientists said the cubs looked healthy and followed their mother's heels closely.
© Land of the Leopard press service
Leopardess Umka and her cubs
However, the number of recorded cubs may have increased not only due to the growing leopard population but also due to a larger number of trail cameras in the park. In 2016, over 300 hidden cameras were set up on an area of 3,000 sq km. The monitored territory has expanded substantially allowing scientists to obtain more information about the population of the rarest wildcat on the planet.
"Trail cameras have drastically improved the quality of information used for assessing the population. This method is different from the traditional approach when leopards were counted from their paw prints in the snow. Photo monitoring is an objective method that doesn't depend on the weather or expert personal opinion. We have laid the foundation for future objective research," said Yelena Shevtsova, deputy director for research at Land of the Leopard.
Now experts are analyzing the data from camera traps, and the number of cubs recorded in 2015 could turn out to be even higher. Final results of the 2015 monitoring and also new data on the number of leopards in the wild will be released this summer. The previous monitoring put the total number of Far Eastern leopards living in Russia at about 70.
Researchers at Land of the Leopard National Park have been conducting extensive monitoring of Far Eastern leopards in Russia since 2013 with the support of the Presidential Executive Office, the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation, the Russian Geographical Society, WWF, WCS, and the Institute of Sustainable Nature Development.