Things are starting to look up for the critically endangered Amur Leopard, otherwise known as the rarest big cat on earth. This leopard is indigenous to the southeastern parts of Russia and northeast China, but as of 2007 there were only around 30 of these leopards living in the wild.
However, in a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the number of Amur Leopards has doubled since their last census in 2007. Their numbers in the wild rose from 30 to 57, most present in Russia's Land of the Leopard National Park that was set up to protect the animal. 12 additional cats were also counted outside the park area in China during the census, meaning the number of these cats has truly doubled.
Some members of the census believe there may actually be more Amur Leopards out there. It is a difficult task to count these solitary and sneaky cats with park rangers and experts only being able to count those in the leopard's usual habitat through the use of camera traps that took over 10,000 photographs of the animals. The leopards were identified by the unique spot patterns on their fur, but experts don't know how many leopards managed to sneak past the cameras.
"Such a strong rebound in Amur leopard numbers is further proof that even the most critically endangered big cats can recover if we protect their habitat and work together on conservation efforts," states Barney Long, director of species protection and Asian species conservation for WWF.
Although Amur Leopard populations are headed in the right direction, conservationists recognize that the still have a long way to go before the Amur Leopard has a secure future. With this recent win for the Amur Leopard, it has encouraged conservationists in Russia and China work more closely together to monitors these animals.