Far Eastern leopard on motorway© ChinaNews
26 June 2019

Scientists identified the leopard seen on a motorway in northeast China

Experts from Land of the Leopard have identified the Far Eastern leopard spotted by tourists while strolling along a section of a motorway in China. This turned out to be male leopard, Leo 59M.

"This is not the first time that Far Eastern leopards have crossed this motorway, but this particular case does draw attention to an important issue," said Yuri Darman (PhD in biology) and deputy director for science at Land of the Leopard. "Judging from the confusion in the young leopard's appearance and the way he was acting, he seems to have gotten lost while trying to cross a strip of forest towards North Korea, ending up by a busy motorway and the Juanhe border crossing. Russia's success in restoring the rare cats' population provides for their gradual resettlement in the adjacent territories in China's Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. But to ensure this, we need to provide these animals with the right conditions so that they can without any difficulty cross borders."

The growing economic cooperation between the two countries promotes the development of the system at border crossing points as well as their access roads, the expert noted. In China, like in Russia, the rare cats can end up as victims of road accidents. This is why there is a pressing need for wildlife crossings and underground passageways to be created, namely, on the reconstructed Kraskino — Hunchong motorway, where these structures will allow the Far Eastern leopards and Amur tigers to cross towards the Tumen River valley and further down to North Korea.

Land of the Leopard's territory directly borders on China; however, the state border is no obstruction for animals, which is why rare cats move freely about the two countries' territories. A further increase in the Far Eastern leopard's global population might lead to a rise in road accidents involving these rare predators.

According to Land of the Leopard science department data, Leo 59M has been spotted on the near-border section of the Kraskino — Hunchong motorway since 2014. Like 15 more spotted cats, this male has dual citizenship, as he was repeatedly seen by both Russian and Chinese scientists' camera traps.

In 2017, China established the Northeast National Park for Tigers and Leopards. Its territory encompasses over 1.46 million hectares, which includes the areas near the border. In February 2019, the administrations of the Russian and Chinese national parks signed a memorandum of understanding.

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