We don’t know how many Amur leopards are left in the wild

2019: People want to know how many Amur leopards are left in the wild. The date is important as numbers are relentlessly declining. The premier authority on the subject and the organisation which has the best up-to-date knowledge is the IUCN Red List. So what do they say? It is disappointing as usual. They say that there are less than 60 Amur leopards in the wild on the planet.

There are less than 60 Amur leopards in the wild according to the IUCN Red List
There are less than 60 Amur leopards in the wild according to the IUCN Red List
Amur leopard
Amur leopard

They describe the animal as critically endangered. I’d say so. If you search the internet for the answer you’ll find some variations.

Google highlights the National Geographic answer which states 60. But this is wrong. It is less than 60 and there is no specified number below that 60 ceiling. So the experts don’t know.

Scientific American say 30. Panda.org say 57.

All we can say is that the world does not know how many Amur leopards are in the wild at 2019 but it is probably below 60 and the number is declining.

And can less than 60 wild cats of one species, in the wild, sustain that population even if they are left entirely alone? There might be inbreeding which leads to infertility as is the case with the Florida panther. If that is the case it can only be a slow downhill run to extinction in the wild in due course.


I have little faith in the IUCN. I feel that the organisation is compromised by a conflict of interest due to being part funded by organisations who support trophy and sport hunting. I don’t have evidence to support this supposition. It is a hunch. The IUCN continually understate the endangerment of many wild species which places the animals in a position where governments allow them to be hunted.

There is so much money in hunting and in the trade of wild species and body parts that it is almost certain that an organisation like the IUCN is going to be under pressure to loosen their classification to allow hunting of certain animals. The big wild cats are exposed to crazy trophy hunters who love to kill big cats. They don’t want some pain in the arse scientists telling them that the cat is endangered and therefore cannot be shot so they bribe them.

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How many Amur leopards are left in the world 2017?

The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is one of the world’s rarest wild cat species. The answer to the question in the title can be found on the IUCN Red List website but even they will be slightly imprecise because population measurement of wild cats is not precise. They say that the total population remains at less than 60 individuals cats, which means it has been at that figure for a while. An astonishingly small number for an entire subspecies of wild cat.

Amur leopard in captivity
Amur leopard in captivity

I can remember about 10 years ago the population size being stated as around 400 and stable. If that is true there has been a marked decline. The difference may be due to more accurate measurements.

All of these cats are in the Russian Far East, Korean Peninsula and northeastern China. What more can I say? Perhaps this: such a small population size may be unviable for survival by which I mean they may not be able to breed sufficiently to sustain themselves. They may die out as a species in the wild. There is a lower limit at which point the species becomes effectively extinct in the wild. How many of these 60 cats can breed? Perhaps they only count breeding adults. It is worth mentioning that these 60 or less cats live in fragmented locations. Perhaps there are a series of small groups and if so this makes their survival even more precarious.

The IUCN Red List say that the taxonomy of the leopard is under review. This means the scientists are not convinced that there are nine subspecies as stated. The IUCN Red List is meant to be the premier source for information about the conservation status of all species.

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Amur Leopard Population

Amur leopard
Amur leopard

The current wildcat news which is considered good news is that the Amur leopard population has almost doubled to 12 (2011). The bad bit about this news is the ridiculously low figure. And let’s not forget that it is difficult to count wildcat numbers and there is nearly always a vested interest there somewhere to massage the figures.

The best way to count numbers is through camera traps (cameras that are well positioned and which fire off when the animal passes in front of it). The video above must be from a video camera trap.

Pardon me for being a bit jaded and cynical but I don’t see a lot to shout about when the estimated figure for the entire population of this rare subspecies of leopard (scientific name: Panthera pardus orientalis) is only a dozen individuals. Is this a sustainable population? Is inbreeding causing infertility?

The Amur leopard lives in the same region as the Siberian tiger and the tiger has a breeding population (14) that is much lower than the actual population (over 400). This is due to inbreeding and infertility.

The Amur leopard population has been extremely low for a long time. Perhaps Russia wants to send out some good news. Putin likes to do this. He likes to be associated with tigers and leopards as it enhances his macho image.

The Amur leopard is considered critically endangered by the people at the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (Red List). That is one step from extinct in the wild. This is a very rare subspecies.

200013-16 adults and 1-3 cubs
200320-21 adults and 4-5 cubs
200714-20 adults and 5-6 cubs

As can be seen the doubling to 12 individuals is hardly something to shout about as it is still a decline since 2003. Source: Red List.

The Amur leopard lives in the southwestern Primorye region (Primorskiy kray, Russia) of Russia. It is extinct in China and the Korean Peninsula (Anonymous 2007).

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