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Russian sanctuary may invite North Korea to jointly study, protect Amur leopards

Although North Korea officially has no Amur leopards, it is possible that some animals from Russia cross its border

VLADIVOSTOK, April 29. /TASS/. Russia’s Land of the Leopard national park plans to invite North Korean environmental organizations to engage in joint studies and conservation efforts of the world’s most endangered big cat, the Amur leopard, the sanctuary’s press service said on Monday.

"Russian scientists regularly detect Far Eastern leopards crossing into the territory of North Korea, but have no information about the population of those animals in that country," the nature reserve’s press service said in a statement.

In its south, the Land of the Leopard borders North Korea’s Rason Migratory Bird Sanctuary. In 2018, four adult Amur leopards were caught by trail cameras in the border zone. This indicates the possibility that some Amur leopards could be roaming in North Korea. However, the country has no nature reserves or organizations tasked with Amur leopard conservation efforts.

According to the Land of the Leopard’s specialists, the geographical range of Amur leopards increases as their population in Russia continues to grow: the leopards are known to cross the border with China, so the chances of them settling in North Korea are also high.

"Russian scientists regularly detect signs of those rare cats crossing into North Korea. However, we currently have no information on how far into the North Korean territory they go and for how long they stay there," the Land of the Leopard director Viktor Bardyuk said.

The Amur leopard is the rarest wild feline in the world. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In the early 2000s, only 30 Amur leopards were living in the wild. In 2012, the Land of the Leopard National Park was created in Russia’s Primorsky Region to preserve the population of Amur leopards. Currently 91 adult cats and 22 kittens are estimated to live in the sanctuary.