A Look at the World’s Rarest Cat

A rare and nearly extinct subspecies of leopard, the Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), roams the snowy hills and plains of Russia’s Far East. Numerous factors – including environmental changes, human activity and poaching – have given it the dubious honor of being the world’s rarest cat. Its current numbers in the wild are estimated at around 80. “There’s still a lot of work to be done in order to secure a safe future for the Amur Leopard,” Barney Long, who leads Asian species conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in the United States, told CBS News.

A typical adult Amur Leopard will weigh between 25 and 48 kilograms, but exceptionally large ones (usually males) have reached 75 kilos (the same as an average human adult). Most have a height of 64-78 centimeters and a length of between .73 and 1.4 meters. The typical lifespan of an Amur Leopard in the wild is 10-15 years, while in captivity they can be expected to reach 20 years.

The Amur Leopard’s diet is heavily based on what she can hunt, which is usually done in the few hours before sunset (on rare occasions, during the daytime, especially when the weather is snowy or overcast). The most common animals that the leopard hunts include Sika deer, Siberian roe deer, Raccoon dog, badger and hare. To help them find prey, Amur Leopards like to walk along the edges of cliffs and ravines. They can reach a running speed of 60 kilometers per hour.

As is typical of the species, the Amur Leopard is a loner. The exception is a female caring for her offspring, which leave the home upon reaching maturity in about three years. The attention various NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund, and the Russian government, have given the Amur Leopard have helped in no small part in its recovery: today passengers of Moscow’s busy underground metro can even spot an Amur Leopard riding the rails!