Fire rages through world’s only Amur Leopard reserve
A fire in the far east region of Primorye in Russia has spread into the protected Amur Leopard reservation. On a global scale, 111 of these big cats can still be found in zoos. In the wild, only 35 are known to still exist, with 12 of them roaming in the Russian reserve.
Around 3,700 acres of forest land is said to be destroyed furthering the already critical status level of the Amur Leopards’ survival.
The fire at the reserve that started on Tuesday has been put out by local employees from the nearest fully protected reserve, Kedrovaya Pad. Suspicions were raised on why the fire did not die out on its own, Andrei Fereferov, a World Wildlife Fund official who is reponsible for the Far East Leopard preservation projects, said.
With the degradation of the protected forest, fears for the safety of the leopards’ survival is growing. The number of Amur Leopards has shrunk by 40 times over the last 100 years, leaving only an estimated 35 individuals in the wild, reports from Amur Leopard Tiger Alliance (ALTA) and Amur Leopard Conservation showed.
Continuous poaching and habitat loss are the prime reasons for the dramatic fall in numbers of the famous blue-eyed leopards.
“What is bad is the continual degradation of their habitat,” said Yury Darman, Director at the Amur branch of WWF.
The disaster came after the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent recently announced plans to bring two Amur Leopards back into the Russian wilderness. With the devastating damage to their only habitat now, it leaves the question whether it is still suitable for the animals to move to.