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Siberian big cats making a comeback

By Stephen Morgan     Feb 18, 2015 in Environment
Siberian leopards and tigers are on the resurgence. The big cats were facing extinction only a few years ago and the efforts of dedicated conservationists has helped reverse that trend.
However, the question of whether they can survive is still uncertain. Conservationists fear they may have to restrict them to protected areas, as has been done in India. Wild life activists are fighting to protect their presence in the wildernesses of the Russian Far East and parts of northern China, into which they still occasionally stray.
The Russia media outlet Sputnik International reports that a census of big cats, which started on January 31, found that the numbers of Siberian leopards and tigers is growing. It estimates that there are now some 450 tigers in the region.
The Smithsonian says that the Siberian tiger — also called the Amur tiger — is the biggest tiger in the world, along with the Bengali. The publication describes the Amurs as, "ocher and russet, with a pink nose, amber eyes and thick black stripes that band their bodies in patterns as unique as any fingerprint. An adult male Amur can measure as long as 11 feet and weigh 450 pounds; the average female is closer to 260."
Thousands of the tigers and leopards once roamed huge swaths of land extending from northern China, the Korean peninsula and throughout the Russian Far East. But they are now isolated to the Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces bordering the Pacific ocean and not far from the provincial capital of Vladivostok.
Hunting and deforestation in the post war period reduced their number to no more than 40. Despite efforts to stop poaching, it continues today and over 20 cats have been killed since 2012 for their fur, medicinal purposes or just as trophies.
Primorsky Province Governor, Vladimir Miklushevsky, told RIA Novosti that there have been positive signs concerning the increase in numbers of Siberian leopards.
"The population of leopards today in the Far East is 57, which is a lot more than a few years ago, when we spoke of a population of 30-35 animals. Experts suggest a level of 100-120 would ensure their conservation, and we are continuing this work," he said. However, the WWF warns that the leopards are still “teetering on the brink of extinction” due to hunting and the loss of their natural environment.
The Russian government has made efforts to stop the threat to the big cats by setting aside a protected area of some 650,000 acres, called the Land of the Leopard National Park. There is also a Rehabilitation Center for tigers in the Primorsky Safari Park and in October last year, Russia and China agreed to cooperate to help protect the animals.
More about Siberian tiger, Leopard, Extinction, Growing, Comeback
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