VLADIVOSTOK, July 31 (Itar-Tass) - Russian scientists have launched a large-scale research program to find out what diseases threaten vanishing species of Far Eastern (Amur) leopards. This was reported by Deputy Head for research work at Land of the Leopard National Park Elena Salmanova.
Researchers from the Institute of Biology and Soil Study at the Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, the national park and the Wildlife Conservation Society will collect blood samples of cats and dogs in the Khasansky and Nadezhdensky districts located near Land of the Leopard.
Scientists said they would study the spread of dangerous infectious and parasitic diseases such as canine distemper virus. These diseases can be transmitted from domestic to wild animals inhabiting taiga, in particular to leopards that sometimes live quite close to human settlements and hunt for dogs.
“Such a research is unusual for Russia. It will be held for the first time for the population of Far Eastern leopard. Undoubtedly, this is a very important step towards preserving the planet’s rarest big cat,” Salmanova said.
Land of the Leopard National Park was created in 2012 to protect the Far Eastern leopard. The park occupies an area of 262,000 hectares and incorporates Kedrovaya Pad (Pine Valley) nature preserve, Leopardovy wildlife preserve, lands of hunting farms, military testing ranges and western part of Vladivostok’s Frunzensky district on the Peschany (Sandy) Peninsula.
The Far Eastern leopard lives in the Primorsky Territory’s southwest. Over the past 20 years the area of natural habitation of the world’s rarest big cat shrank almost by half, their number critically reduced.
Scientists hope to save the endangered animal in wildlife. Over the past years the population of the Far Eastern leopard increased from 35 to 45-50 animals.