Camera traps at Land of the Leopard took the first pictures of Leo 45F, a nine-year-old female Far Eastern leopard, with her cubs. Before that, the feline managed to hide her cubs from cameras. The photo monitoring of rare cats at the national park is supported by the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation.
The pictures of adult Leo 45F with her two cubs are very important for scientists at Land of the Leopard, because cubs, unlike adult leopards, seldom appear in photos due to their mothers’ caution. Females try to avoid animals’ paths where most cameras are installed. In addition, cameras often photograph the mother first and do not have enough time to capture images of her cubs who follow. According to experts, the photos of Leo 45F with her cubs attest to the growing experience of photo monitoring specialists.
Leo 45F’s cubs
“It is difficult to imagine that these are the first cubs of such a mature female. Perhaps she managed to ‘hide’ her cubs before. However, the improving photo monitoring methodology and the better placement of camera traps are bearing fruit: the number of leopard cub photos is growing every year. The case of Leo 45F shows that gaining experience opens new horizons to study and research the population,” said Yelena Shevtsova, deputy director of Vorontsov Land of the Leopard.
In addition to installing a camera trap in the right place, specialists must choose the right camera model. The research goals differ depending on the camera’s location: besides the population’s composition, experts study the behavioural characteristics of Far Eastern leopards.
Photo monitoring began at Land of the Leopard in 2013. The network of cameras now covers 360,000 ha, with 400 camera traps monitoring the life of the national park’s wild cats. This is the largest trail camera network in Russia. Every year scientists receive about 8,000 pictures of leopards. Camera traps are checked annually. In the future, the national park’s employees plan to use the data from cubs’ photos to track the population growth. This will be possible after collecting several years’ worth of images from the existing network.