In recent years, the North China leopard has been spotted frequently in the surrounding mountainous areas around the capital of Beijing. Credit: CGTN.com.

In a world where animal species are rapidly disappearing, it’s reassuring to see that the famed leopards of North China may be making a comeback.

According to recently released footage taken in Pingquan, North China’s Hebei Province, a North China leopard was seen entering a sheep pen and attacking the sheep, providing the first conclusive evidence of the existence of the North China leopards near Beijing.

According to The Global Times and CCTV News, experts said that the leopards’ frequent appearances in areas where they were previously not thought to exist suggest that the long-expected “grand return” of the animal to Beijing, their original habitat, is possible. 

The leopard shown in the video is about 100 kilometers from Beijing. In recent years, they have been spotted frequently in the surrounding mountainous areas around the capital. 

The monitoring spot in Xiaowutai Mountain in Hebei Province, where the appearance of the leopard was detected, is the nearest to Beijing, some 40 kilometers away, Global Times reported.  

Zhang Li, an ecology expert at Beijing Normal University, said the reappearance of the animal after it disappeared from the area could be attributed to the improved ecological environment, as forest areas in North China have significantly increased and the ecosystem has been gradually restored.

The leopard’s main food, herbivorous ungulates, has also grown in number over the years, which could also be one of the reasons behind their return, Global Times reported. 

The North China leopard used to spread across North China including the Beijing area.

According to research, the earliest records of the North China leopard’s appearances in Beijing dated back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and they could still be found in the 1970s.

But for the past 30 years, they were rarely seen in the capital, or other provinces of China, Global Times reported. 

In 2012, the North China leopard was added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 

The disappearance of the leopard from Beijing was believed to be the result of large-scale forest-felling back in the Yuan Dynasty, coupled with modern forest reclamation and road construction, which resulted in massive losses or fragmentation of the leopard’s habitats, forcing them to leave Beijing or live in isolated groups.