Photo: William Warby, Flickr
Photo: William Warby, Flickr

Russia has opened a research center in a national park in the Far East of the country dedicated to preservation of the critically endangered Amur leopard, of which only 80 or so individual animals are estimated to remain in the wild.

The center will be within the 262,000-hectare park, known as “Land of the Leopard,” which was set up five years ago to provide a protected habitat for the Amur, the world’s rarest large cat.

Areas of Russia’s Far East and parts of China are the only identified habitat of the Amur and about 90% percent of the known population of the species live within the national park, which is about 135 kilometers from Vladivostok.

The US$6 million, five-hectare research site will be the world’s largest for conservation of the Amur, comprising laboratories, an administrative building, a hotel for tourists and participants in conferences, and a museum.

“We will be able to receive scientists from all over the world here and at the same time, the area is also a cultural and educational center all in one, in which you can learn about nature in the region,” said Tatyana Baranovskaya, the national park director.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) estimates 80 to 82 Amur leopards remain, while Russian ecologists put the number at about 70. Still, this represents an improvement from 10 years ago, when only 30 or so were thought to be alive.

The new center will become a base for scientists and for better management of the national park itself, said Dale Miquelle, the director of the Russian program of the WCS.

In a matter of weeks, the WCS will start training programs at the new center for park employees. “We plan to help in the scientific process and to conduct studies,” Miquelle said.

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