It’s so difficult to choose the first endangered species to highlight here, because there are so many. Obscure ones like tapirs, okapis, saolas, pangolins; and the famous black rhinos, Sumatran elephants, and South China tigers – you’ll learn about them all here at one point or another. I decided to start with the exquisite creature at the top of the World Wildlife Fund’s list: the amur leopard. These guys are critically endangered, on the brink of extinction with only about 35 left in the wild. Whoa! Imagine if you had 35 friends and you were the last living humans on Earth. Sounds totally grim, right?
These nocturnal, solitary big cats are a rare subspecies of leopard living in the temperate forests of the Russian Far East. In the 1970s, they lost 80% of their habitat to unsustainable logging and land conversion for farming. Also, their prey (roe deer, sika deer, and wild boars) have been poached from their territory, including the leopard’s former range around China. They, themselves, are also poached for their beautiful coats of widely spaced rosettes with thick black borders.
Land of the Leopard National Park was established in 2012 to protect over 1,000 square miles of territory of the world’s rarest cat. Awesome! Not everyone will have the opportunity to visit this remote area in the Russian Far East, but you can adopt an amur leopard through the WWF (NOT the World Wrestling Federation, okay?). But you don’t even have to do that. I think the most vital thing is to just be aware of how animal poaching slowly harms whole ecosystems and endangers all wildlife populations, not just the cute, glorious mammals like this one. I know it sounds like a no-brainer – we know poaching is a problem and most people absolutely do not support it. But having an out of sight/out of mind perception of it doesn’t help. We all need to heighten our consciousness about the impact each of us makes on the Earth. That means being a little more mindful of what and how we consume, as well as the attitudes we project out into the world. For example, choosing exotic woods for your building projects can do more harm than you really know. Regarding things like fur coats and taxidermied curios as beautiful and cool is not really cool. To each his own, of course, but I do believe mindfulness can be a strong, unifying thing, influencing a collective conscience to reject ways of life that sabotage the Earth and the wildlife we live here with.