Habitat loss and fragmentation
It is estimated that between 1970-1983, the Amur leopard lost an astonishing 80% of its former territory. Indiscriminate logging, forest fires and land conversion for farming are the main causes.
Still all is not lost. Even now large tracts of forest, which are ideal leopard habitat exist. If these areas can be protected from unsustainable logging, rampant forest fires and poaching of wildlife, the chance exists to increase the population of the subspecies in the wild.
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There are still large tracts of suitable habitat left in China, but the prey base in these forests is insufficient to sustain populations of leopards and tigers. Prey populations will recover if the use of the forests by the local population is regulated and if measures are taken to limit the poaching of ungulates. For the Amur leopard to survive for the long term, it needs to repopulate its former range. But for that to happen, prey populations need to recover first.
Poaching and illegal trade
The Amur leopard is poached largely for its beautiful, spotted fur. In 1999, an undercover investigation team recovered a female and a male Amur leopard skin, which were being sold for US$ 500 and US$ 1,000 respectively, in the village of Barabash, not far from the Kedrovaya Pad reserve. This suggests that there is a market for such products within the locality itself.
Agriculture and villages surround the forests where the leopards live. As a result the forests are relatively accessible, making poaching a bigger problem than elsewhere. Not only for the leopards themselves, but also for important prey species, such as roe deer, sika deer and hare, which are hunted by the villagers both for food and hard cash.
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Conflict with humans
Amur leopards are particularly vulnerable because of their preference for deer, a natural predatory preference but dangerous in the Russian Far East due to direct human involvement: farmers in the Russian Far East raise deer for human consumption, and to produce antlers for the Asian medicine market.
In absence of wild prey, the leopards often venture into the deer farms in search for food. Owners of these farms are quick to protect their investment by eliminating leopards attacking their stock. Presently, the leopard's most immediate threat comes from such retaliatory or preventive killing.
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Vulnerable population size and inbreeding
Additionally, the Amur leopard is threatened by the extremely small wild population size, which makes them vulnerable to "catastrophes" such as fire or disease, to chance variation in birth and death rates and sex ratios (e.g., all cubs born for two years might be male), and to inbreeding depression.
Father-daughter and sibling matings have been observed and it is possible that this may lead to genetic problems including reduced fertility. Such matings do of course occur naturally to a certain extent in large cat populations, but in a very small population there is no possibility of subsequent outbreeding. Studies have shown that the number of cubs per adult female fell to 1 in 1991 from 1.9 in 1973.