China plans world’s largest wild cat sanctuary

Siberian Tiger walking in the snow (Panthera tigris altaica)

China plans a huge new national park for two wild cats that are coming perilously close to extinction: the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger.

The 5,600sqm sanctuary will be set in the northeastern corner of the country, in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, and will be 60% larger than Yellowstone National Park in the US.

Amur Leopard portrait

Conservationists hope the development signifies China’s dedication to crack down on wildlife trafficking ahead of starting trial national park projects in nine provinces from now until 2018. The wild cat park – as yet unnamed – isn’t expected until 2020.

In 2007, Amur Leopard’s global population in the wild plunged to less than 30: in China and Korea, it was deemed to be completely extinct; and the small population left in Russia’s Primorsky province were facing numerous threats from civilisation, urbanisation, poaching, forest exploitation and climate change.

The Siberian Tiger, has faced much the same fate through hunting and other human activities.

Happily both have rebounded and since 2015, China has shown its commitment to cats by building the Hunchun Tiger Leopard Nature Reserve in 2002.

First published in May/Jun 2017