Rare leopard photographed in China

April 25, 2012 at 4:30 PM

NEW YORK, April 25 (UPI) -- The first camera trap photos of a rare Amur leopard in a Chinese nature reserve suggest the leopards may be returning to the country, U.S. conservationists say.

The leopard was photographed in the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province, the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society reported Wednesday.

Provincial officials recently announced the results of a survey showing an estimated 8 to 11 leopards are living in the province.

Most of the world's remaining Amur leopards live across the border in Russia where camera traps photographed 29 leopards last winter in a portion of the newly created Land of the Leopard National Park.

A number of the cameras were donated by the WCS in support of Russian-Chinese transboundary conservation of Amur leopards and tigers.

Estimates of the total number of surviving Amur leopards have hovered around 30 since the mid-1970s, but the combined Russian and Chinese photo evidence and surveys suggest leopard numbers may be rising to 40 or more, the WCS said.

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