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Rare Amur Leopard Call Gets Caught on Tape

New footage of the cat making its distinctive roar offers a glimpse into the endangered species’ behavior

The Amur leopard twins Akeno, left, and Zivon, right, are being baptized at the zoo in Leipzig, Germany, Thursday, July 6, 2017. The twin animals were born on 22 April. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)
smithsonian.com

Chances are you haven’t heard what an Amur leopard sounds like. An estimated 70 adults of the critically endangered species remain, and before now, their territorial call had never been recorded. Thanks to sound recording technology, however, for the first time, researchers have successfully caught footage of an Amur leopard making its distinctive growl.

Aside from it being one of the coolest cat calls ever heard, the new footage, which has been posted online in an article by National Geographic's Maria Antonova, will help conservationists understand more about the critically endangered cat.

The territorial call was captured in the Land of the Leopard, a protected area in the Russian Far East established in April 2012. One of the 300 camera traps hidden within the preserve caught footage of a seven-year-old male, Typhoon—the only known male within the 45,000-acre Kedrovaya Pad area—making the call in October.

Because Typhoon calmly lied down after roaring in the video, Ivan Rakov, a Land of the Leopard National Park representative​, tells Antonova that his behavior suggests leopards typically roar when they’re relaxed.

This kind of roar can minimize physical confrontations between male leopards, Dale Miquelle, director of the Russian program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, explains to Antonova. Despite the plentiful camera traps set up throughout the preserve, Miquelle adds that the scientists were “incredibly lucky” to catch Typhoon’s sounds and get him on film.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Amur leopard’s dire population can be attributed to several factors, notably illegal wildlife trade. The Amur leopard has distinctive large, dark and widely spaced circles and thick unbroken rings that can grow as long as seven centimeters. But the rare cat's gorgeous, spotted fur, which helps protect the animal from the harsh winter climate of the Russian Far East, has historically made it a target for black market trade.

In recent years, however, the rare cat has shown signs of coming back from the brink. As Erin Blakemore reported for Smithsonian.com in 2015, a census taken three years after Russia’s Land of the Leopard opened proved encouraging—it found that over a period of eight years, as more protective measures for the cat had locked into place, its population nearly doubled.

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