In the course of the photo monitoring carried out at Vorontsov Land of the Leopard National Park in 2018, researchers have identified a total of 91 adult leopards as well as 22 cubs. The analysis of the gathered data proved that the number of female leopards had increased significantly, said Land of the Leopard representatives during a news conference held at their office in Vladivostok.
The experts state that as a rule, a qualitative increase is possible when the population contains at least twice as many females as males. This new trend among Far Eastern leopards indicates stabilisation of the population of this rare cat.
“The new data confirm the previously identified steady trend towards an increase in the population; we are pleased the see the high percentage of cubs as well,” said Yelena Shevtsova, Deputy Director for Research at Land of the Leopard. “The best news is the change in the ratio of male to female leopards that has taken place in the recent years. The surveys held between the early 2000s and when the national park was established gave this ratio as one to one but now there are almost twice as many females as males. This is the key to the population’s future.”
In order to count the wild cats, national park employees went through almost a million camera trap images, with a total of some 10,000 of them featuring the leopards. Then these pictures were analysed with the help of a special programme that identifies every wild cat by their spot pattern.
Meanwhile, experts from the Russian national park are waiting for the results of photo monitoring conducted by their Chinese colleagues. These data are particularly important now that Land of the Leopard has become a “birth centre” for the spotted cats, with many young leopards moving to the Chinese borders in search of new territories. Some of them return to Primorye Territory, but a certain percentage stays in China, which allows the leopard population to grow. Thus, the picture will only be complete when the Chinese scientists provide their Russian counterparts with their photo monitoring results.
Photo monitoring at Land of the Leopard and Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve is carried out with the support of the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation. About 400 automatic camera traps can be found in the national park, making it the largest camera trap network in Russia. The images obtained with the help of camera traps are valuable scientific field data that allow scientists to determine the size of this rare animal population, monitor the changes in their life cycle, estimate their physical condition and determine their behavioural traits. A total area of 360,000 hectares is being monitored in the national park.