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Russia creates massive park for rare cats

Wild amur leopard
Camera trap photo showing Far Eastern Leopards roaming in their newly declared protected area – Land of the Leopard National Park in Russia. Photo courtesy of WCS

Russia has created a massive national park to protect some of the world’s rarest big cats, the critically endangered Amur tigers and leopards, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Dubbed the “Land of the Leopard” National Park, the reserve covers 1,011 square miles (262,000 hectares) of key habitat for leopards and tigers. The park was created by merging three existing protected areas — Barsovy Federal Wildlife Refuge, and Borisovkoe Plateau Regional Wildlife Refuge — and adding new areas along the Chinese border.

“This is tremendous news for big cat conservation,” said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director for Asia, in a statment. “The creation of this park greatly increases the amount of land protecting critical populations of two of the world’s big cats, and it will go a long way to securing their future. We look forward to continuing to provide whatever support is requested to help conserve tigers and leopards in the region.”

“The new park is great news for Far Eastern leopards and Amur tigers,” added WCS Russia Program Director Dale Miquelle. “We commend the Russian government for their foresight in creating this new protected area, and we are optimistic that it will provide a critical refuge for some of the most endangered big cats on the planet.”

The Amur or Siberian tiger is threatened by habitat loss, hunting as vermin, and poaching for the traditional Chinese medicine market. But the Amur leopard — also known as the Far Eastern leopard — is much worse off. Its population is thought to number less than 40 in the wild.

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