MOSCOW, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The number of endangered Amur leopards at a Russian animal reserve has nearly doubled in seven years, the World Wildlife Federation announced Monday.
A study conducted by scientists with WWF Russia, the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Land of the Leopard National Park found 57 of the big cats in the park. That's up from 30 in 2007.
The Land of the Leopard National Park was established in 2012 in order to help preserve the rare animal and protect its breeding areas. The reserve covers about 60 percent of the animal's habitat.
"The national park became the main organizational force for leopard protection and research," said Yury Darman, head of WWF Russia Amur Branch and a member of the Supervisory Board of The Amur Leopards Center.
Another eight to 12 Amur leopards were counted in neighboring areas in China.
Conservationists said they hope to establish a nature reserve spanning the Chinese-Russian border to further protect the big cat.
"There's still a lot of work to be done in order to secure a safe future for the Amur leopard, but these numbers demonstrate that things are moving in the right direction," said Dr. Barney Long, director of species conservation for WWF U.S.