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December 3, 2016

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Rare leopards, Siberian tigers make bold return

INFRARED cameras have captured incredible scenes of wild Amur leopards and Siberian tigers this year after being installed at a national nature reserve in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.

Amur leopards were spotted 17 times this year at Laoyeling Nature Reserve, equalling the total number from 2012 to 2015. Siberian tigers were spotted five times, including twice when they were found roaming during the daytime.

Zhang Chunlei, head of the reserve, said Thursday more animal activity, especially in the daytime, show the rare species have become more active thanks to human retreat.

Zhang said Siberian tigers were rarely found in the daytime for fear of human-related noise, such as logging saws and vehicle engines at the reserve, which used to be a timber base.

In 2011, the local forestry bureau ordered logging stopped and initiated a program to build a nature reserve for wild Siberian tigers. In 2014, the reserve was upgraded to the national level.

Since humans made way for the reserve, prey for the carnivores, such as boars and deer, has increased, which helped the big cat population rebound.

Zhang, said at least four Siberian tigers and seven Amur leopards currently live at the reserve. Numbers change as the animals often roam back and forth across the China-Russia border. One of the world’s most endangered species, the Amur leopard was put under top national protection in 1983.

There are less than 70 Amur leopards in the world, mostly living in Russia’s Far East, China’s Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces and the northern Korean Peninsular. About 500 Siberian tigers are believed to survive in the wild, living in the same areas.


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