People, who have followed us over the last couple of years know that we are quite passionate about leopards, and about the critically endangered Amur leopard in particular. There are only up to a maximum of 40 Amur leopards left in the wild; in the Primorski Krai region (west of Vladivostok). In addition to this there have been sightings of Amur leopards in North East China. Although officials from the Jilin Province confirmed the sightings through monitoring the Hunchun Tiger and Leopard Reserve via camera traps, numbers of the leopards in China and also whether this is an independent leopard population or leopards, crossing the border with Russia to feed, still needs to be confirmed.

Amur Leopard - Sayan
at Colchester Zoo

In 2011 Photography for Big Cats (then Big Cat Photography) started to provide donations from photoproduct sales to the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA). This organisation works to stop the decline in numbers of the Amur leopard and tigers plus to protect their habitat and prey. ALTA is an alliance of 14 international and Russian NGOs that have worked for many years to develop, finance and implement conservation projects in Russia and China. ZSL, our link to ALTA, is involved in both sides, fundraising as well as field work. While ZSL is the co-ordinator of the fundraising efforts for ALTA, it runs also a large field programme out in Russia.

Projects, run by ALTA, include the implementation and funding of an anti-poaching team plus their dogs. A mobile team has been established in 1998. This team patrols the forests plus implements road blocks to search cars for firearms and any evidence of poaching. They have confiscated more than 400 firearms plus five skins and other leopard or tiger parts. Their dogs have also proven to be very effective to seek out poachers during the snowless seasons when tracks are not visible.

Other projects are around paying compensation for proven livestock killings by Amur leopards or tigers, and around fighting fire, which occur every year, mainly in grassland areas around the leopard habitat.

All of this requires a lot of resources, which are unfortunately in short supply. 100% of funds donated to ALTA goes to field work as all administrative costs are covered by ZSL. As with all the wildlife conservation groups, we are supporting, we know that the money is used to support the animals.

Although the Amur leopard is a critically endangered species and its protection is backed by the Russian government, poaching is still ongoing. The resources that are there for the protection of this beautiful cat species are limited and as the area is large, the teams out in Russia do need any help, they can get.

Amur Leopard - Milena
at Colchester Zoo

We do hope that we will be able to make a difference with our contributions from fundraising, which we will do this year (2012) as part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Park fundraisng events and via stalls outside the Amur leopard enclosure at Colchester Zoo. Furthermore, Photography for Big Cats sells photoproduct and newly other products like pin badges and soft toys to raise more funds. You can buy all of these via our web page and at our market and fair stalls in Sevenoaks and at Leeds Castle. And of course, you can donate directly via our ALTA link.

As always thank you for your support.