The leopard has the widest distribution of all big cats in the world, however, the northern most subspecies known as the Amur leopard or Far Eastern leopard is the rarest of all big cats. Listed in 1996 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as critically endangered they are on the brink of extinction. Presently, it is estimated that there are fewer than 70 Amur Leopards living in Southwest Primorsky Krai, located in the Russian Far east. Amur Leopards are top-order predators and play an integral role in the regulation of prey species and thus, foster and maintain the healthy balance of the ecosystem in which they inhabit. Reintroduction of critically endangered species, such as the Amur leopard, whose population numbers in the wild are too low to support wild-caught individuals for translocation, require captive stock for breeding. Modern zoos form the backbone of the reintroduction programme by providing suitable breeding pairs, raising funds and educating the public in the plight of these critically endangered animals. While the Tayto Park leopards represent the dire situation this species faces, they also symbolize hope and demonstrate the critical role conservationists, veterinarians and zoos play in combating extinction.
Females become sexually mature at 3-4 years of age. After a gestation period of approximately 100 days they will have litters of 1-4 cubs (average litter is 2). They are weaned after 3 months and will remain with their mothers until they are 18-24 months old. Amur leopards in zoos show some evidence of breeding seasonality with births in late spring and early summer.
Listed as critically endangered on The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. There are fewer than 70 individuals left in the wild.
There are a number of threats facing the remaining population of Amur Leopards. Habitat loss due to increasing land development and human-induced forest fires has destroyed much of the leopards original territory. Poaching and illegal trade are also threatening their survival.