A newly released video is cause for rejoicing among those trying to save one of the most critically endangered cats on Earth: the Amur leopard. Across the globe, only about 50 Amur leopards remain in the wild.
The video, caught by a hidden camera trap in April, shows five of the elusive leopards languidly traversing the remote forests of the Russian Far East.
Coupled with additional images taken by camera traps, the video indicates that 12 Amur leopards now live in two reserves in Russia's Primorsky Province, located between the Sea of Japan and the Chinese border.
A dozen animals may not seem like a lot, but the number is a marked increase over those in recent years, according to WWF, the conservation group that captured the images.
"In the previous five years of camera-trapping, we were able to identify between seven and nine individual leopards in this monitoring plot every year. But this year, the survey was record-breaking," Sergei Aramilev, species program coordinator at WWF Russia's Amur Branch, said in a statement.
The spotted cats, known for the thick, rich coats they develop in the winter months, once roamed across northern China, the Korean peninsula and swaths of eastern Russia. Amur leopards are now largely extinct throughout their former range, except for the few that survive in Russia.
The new footage of the big cats marks the first time WWF has used video-enabled cameras to monitor the leopards in the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and the Leopardoviy Federal Wildlife Refuge.