Amur Leopard Facts
Five groups that classify all living things
A group of animals within the animal kingdom
A group of animals within a pylum
A group of animals within a class
A group of animals within an order
A group of animals within a family
The name of the animal in science
|Panthera pardus orientalis|
Most widely used name for this species
The domestic group such as cat or dog
The place where something is found
|Russia's Far East|
The specific area where the animal lives
The colour of the animal's coat or markings
|Light-hued in winter. reddish-yellow in summer|
The protective layer of the animal
|Long and thick coat|
How long (L) or tall (H) the animal is
|90 cm - 180 cm (3ft - 6ft) excluding tail|
The measurement of how heavy the animal is
|25kg - 48kg (55lbs - 106lbs)|
The fastest recorded speed of the animal
|56 kph (35 mph)|
What kind of foods the animal eats
The food that the animal gains energy from
|Deer, Cattle, hares, small mammals|
Other animals that hunt and eat the animal
|Human poaching and competition with Siberian tigers|
Whether the animal is solitary or sociable
How long the animal lives for
|10 - 15 years in wild; up to 20 in captivity|
The time from conception to birth
|Average Litter Size:|
The average number of babies born at once
The likelihood of the animal becoming extinct
|Estimated Population Size:|
How many of this animal are thought to exist
|103 as of 2018|
The largest danger to this animal
|Poaching and habitat loss|
Characteristics unique to this animal
|Adapted for extreme cold with a coat that grows in the winter!|
Amur Leopard Location
The Amur leopard is an isolated subspecies of leopards surviving along the border of Russia and China. While the Amur leopard may be the most rare big cat on Earth, its numbers have been rebounding thanks to incredible conservation efforts.
Incredible Amur Leopard Facts!
- The Amur leopard lives in extreme environmentsin Russia’s far east and has unique adaptations like a coat that grows significantly during the winter season to protect it against harsh condition that can reach below -30 degrees Celsius!
- In 2000, a survey found just 30 Amur leopards in a small area along the border of Russia and China, making the Amur leopard the rarest big cat on Earth.
- Thanks to conservation efforts, today the Amur leopard’s population is estimated to have increased to more than 100 individuals in the wild, and more than 300 in zoos across the world.
Amur Leopard Scientific Name
The scientific name for the Amur leopard is Panthera pardus orientalis. The genus Panthera covers big cats ranging from tigers, to lions, to jaguars and leopards. Pardus originates from Greek and means ‘spotted,’ while orientalis relates to the geography Amur leopards inhabit, having been first described in Korea.
Amur Leopard Appearance
Like all leopard subspecies, the Amur leopard is covered by ‘rosette’ markings across its coat. The coloration on leopards varies with their surrounding environment, and as the Amur leopard lives in the most northerly environment of all leopard subspecies, in winter its coat becomes more pale than other subspecies. During the winter, its coat also grows about 7 cm (2.75 in) to insulate the Amur leopard from temperatures in its habitat that can reach -30 degrees Celsius (-24 F).
Male Amur leopards typically weigh 32 to 48 kg, while females weigh 25 to 43 kg. This makes the Amur leopard smaller than the African leopard subspecies on average, although The Wild Cats Conservation Alliance has recorded male Amur leopards reaching 75 kg (165 lbs).
Amur Leopard Behavior
The Amur leopard is largely solitary with the exception of mothers with their offspring and adults during mating season. Like other leopard subspecies, the Amur leopard hunts nocturnally. However, camera traps have shown the species may be more active than other leopard subspecies during daylight hours.
Home range sizes vary depending on the habitat, food available, and the season. While home ranges have been observed exceeding 160 square km, the core areas where Amur leopards hunt is typically much smaller.
Amur Leopard Habitat
Today, Amur leopards lives in a small range along the Chinese-Russian border. Traditionally the subspecies ranged across Korea, and upper Manchuria. However, today almost its entire population lives in Russian forests about 30 mi (48 km) to the west of the Russian port city of Vladivostok.
Temperatures in this region can top over 30 degrees Celsius (90 F) during the summer and can drop below negative 30 degrees Celsius (-24 F) during the winter, making it a more extreme environment than where other leopards live. Amur leopards are most commonly observed on camera traps in higher altitudes along the temperate forests in the hills and mountains of the region.
In 2000, a survey of Amur leopards found that as few as 30 individuals remained in the wild, leaving the species critically close to extinction. Since that survey, a concerted effort by conservation groups and the governments of Russia and China has helped the population rebound.
The Amur leopard is a carnivore that lives on a diet consisting predominately of sika deer, roe deer, and other small mammals such as squirrels, rodents, and hares. A solitary hunter, the Amur leopard ambushes its prey with bursts of energy that include tremendous leaping ability and speeds of up to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h).
Like other leopard subspecies, the Amur leopard can climb trees for resting and also protecting its kills from other predators and scavengers. Due to the extreme environments Amur leopards live in, winter proves more difficult when less prey is available and snow makes it difficult for leopards to blend in with their background. During this time, Amur leopards will expand their home range in search of more available prey.
The Amur leopard faces few threats from predators, aside from humans who have hunted Amur leopards for their coats. While the Amur leopard is a top predator in their habitat, their range does overlap with the Siberian tiger.
In many regions where tiger and leopard territories overlap, leopards have struggled with the competition of another apex predator. However, researchers watching the growth of Siberian tiger populations haven’t detected an adverse effect on Amur leopards.
Amur Leopard Reproduction and Life Cycles
Amur leopard females reach sexual maturity and can first breed at around three years of age. Gestation periods range from about 90-105 days. Litters can range between 1 to 6 cubs, although 2 to 3 cubs is the most common litter size.
Due to the extreme conditions Amur leopards live in, it takes longer to raise an adolescent to independence than leopard subspecies in Africa. Cubs may live with their mother for up to 24 months before establishing their own territory.
Amur Leopard in Zoos
While the remaining population of Amur leopards in the wild remains critically low, approximately 300 survive in zoos across the world.
Select zoos where you can see the Amur leopard in person:
- Beardsley Zoo(Bridgeport, Connecticut): Welcomed two new Amur leopard cubs in March, 2019.
- Minnesota Zoo: Located in the zoo’s “Russia’s Grizzly Coast” section.
- Santa Barbara Zoo: Home to two Amur leopards, Ajax and Wyatt.
- Hogle Zoo (Salt Lake City, Utah): Home to Zaya and her calf Jilin, who was born In May, 2018.
- Denver Zoo: First arrived at the zoo in 1989!
Amur Leopard Facts
A tunnel to help save the Amur leopard?
- In 2016 Russia completed a 575 meter (1,886 ft) tunnel to divert traffic from an area where remaining Amur leopard populations remained. Russia and China have cooperated on protecting remaining Amur leopard populations. While the Chinese side of the border is more densely populated, the Russian habitat is largely uninhabited. Which has helped the species rebound.
The Amur leopard has tiny hooks on its tongue!
- The amur leopard has “denticles” or tiny hooks on its tongue. These hooks allow the leopard to lick the bones of its prey and collect even more meat.
- While the wild population of Amur leopards has rebounded to more than 100 individuals as of 2018, the population in captivity remains far larger. Special environments such as Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park have built specialized Amur leopard habitats with the goal of creating populations that can be reintroduced into the wild. The reintroduction of captive Amur leopards could increase the size of their habitat and continue increasing genetic diversity from today’s levels.
Amur Leopard FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Why is the Amur leopard endangered?
The Amur leopard is endangered predominately because of poaching for its coat and habitat loss. The species once ranged across the Korean peninsula, but is believed to have gone extinct there in the 1960s. Today Amur leopards are protected by anti-poaching laws and have protected habitat, but need to see its populations continue rebounding to escape threats posed by inbreeding and potentially devastating diseases.
Where do Amur leopards live today?
The Amur leopard lives in a small area in Russia’s Far East that’s roughly 7,000 square kilometers on the Russia and China border. Today, the vast majority of the population lives in a protected area in Russia named ‘Land of the Leopard Park,” although a small number of Amur leopards have been seen inside China’s side of the boarder.
What is being done to save the Amur leopard?
Russia has established a ‘Land of the Leopard Park’ with the aid of conservation groups. This park has been critical in seeing the population of Amur leopards more than triple between 2000 and 2018. In the future, Amur leopards from captivity could be released into the wild to continue expanding the species territory and helping the species survive threats like inbreeding from its limited population.
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First Published: 2nd January 2020, Last Updated: 3rd January 2020
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