A hundred years ago a subspecies of the cat family, the Amur Leopard, roamed the snowy mountains and wooded areas of modern-day Russia and China near the Pacific Coast. The Amur Leopard's abundance was largely due to the fact that it was the only species of its kind to master hunting and survival skills in snowy conditions, critical to enduring the area's tough climate and cold winters.
No more. In 2007, the Amur Leopard's numbers were estimated at just between 19 and 26 still surviving in the wild. The reasons were numerous: human encroachment on its environment, deforestation, pollution and poaching have all played a role. An Amur Leopard's pelt can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market from locals and foreigners alike interested in its aesthetic and medicinal value.
That's why in 2012 the Russian government established the 2,800 square-kilometer Land of the Leopard National Park in the country's Far East, near the border with China. The park is larger than the nation of Luxembourg and recently a special tunnel was constructed to ease the leopard's seasonal migration in light of nearby human activity. It's further complemented by a similar conservation area on the Chinese side of the border. The Russian President personally committed to helping save the endangered species, at one point releasing an Amur Leopard into the wild from captivity on TV. Yet climate change continues to threaten the leopard's existence.