Rare Amur Leopard Captured [LiveScience 2007-10-23]
A rare Amur leopard that is one of about only 30 left in the wild was captured, medically examined and released by experts, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Such medical exams of the critically endangered leopard could help understand how inbreeding undermines its tiny population in eastern Europe, ultimately helping create plans for their survival, the WCS and other organizations said.
Officials from the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Biology and Soils, the WCS and the Zoological Society of London tranquilized the female leopard and medically examined it. Initial findings show it has a heart murmur, which could indicate genetic defects from inbreeding. The team was able to use a portable sonogram device to capture video footage of the leopard's heart, which specialists are currently reviewing.
The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List and is only found in eastern Russia near the Chinese border, an area threatened by human activities. In April 2007, conservationists found a dead Amur leopard shot in the back near Vladivostok, Russia.
Conservationists estimate that there are between 25 and 34 such leopards left in the wild, while European and Russian zoos hold about 130 of the big cats. Male leopards can weigh up to 100 pounds (50 kilograms) while females weigh as little as 77 pounds (35 kilograms).