The trail cameras installed in the southernmost part of Land of the Leopard National Park on the border with North Korea have captured images of four Far Eastern leopards, two of them for the first time. These are the first encouraging results of the park's expanded network of trail cameras.
One of the new monitoring stations was set up in the southernmost part of the park, in the Tumannaya River Basin where Russia borders on North Korea and China. This area with numerous springs and marshes is not a typical habitat for the Far Eastern leopard. However, leopard tracks were reported in the area during the winter monitoring season back in 2013, which is why trail cameras have been installed here.
The trail cameras have spotted four leopards. Two adult leopards, male leopard Leo 59M and leopardess Leo 101F, were previously sighted near the border with China some 10 kilometres from this area. The other two are cubs aged approximately 12 months. They were sighted for the first time. The images from trail cameras have not just confirmed the presence of leopards in that area, but have shown that it is a couple with cubs.
"The results we have received confirmed the data about the flexible habitat selection of the Far Eastern leopard. These cats can live in a variety of conditions, from mixed coniferous-broad leaved forests to scrub forests to grass and shrub areas. The Amur tiger is much more demanding in this respect. Besides, the fact that these rare cats live some 7 kilometres from the border with North Korea may mean that they can also cross into that country," said Dina Matyukhina, senior research associate at Land of the Leopard.
Photographs are the main means of estimating the Far Eastern leopard population. In 2017, trail cameras recorded 84 adult Far Eastern leopards at Land of the Leopard. The number of trail cameras monitoring the population of this rare cat in the Primorye Territory reached 400 following the latest expansion of the network in the park by over 20 cameras in late 2017 and early 2018.