Leopard Near Extinction -- Only About 30 Remain

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Collins said each government has played a role in helping conserve the leopard, with Russia taking the lead.

"But more certainly needs to be done, and what we need now is an increase in commitment to a transboundary protected area," he said.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, led the press conference. He said he wanted to unify three protected areas where the leopard now lives, according to WWF. The group says it convinced the Russian government this year to change a planned oil pipeline route to avoid Amur territories.

Officials at the Russian ministry did not respond to an interview request by press time.

Poaching to Go Unpunished?

Russia is also taking some wrong steps, said Michiel Hötte, an Amur expert with the Zoological Society of London.

"The Russian Ministry of Justice wants to remove the right of [officials in nature reserves] to fine or arrest poachers," Hötte said. "This will seriously weaken reserves on which the Amur leopard depends."

He added that China is considering lifting the ban on the domestic trade in tiger parts used in traditional medicine.

"Lifting the ban would be disastrous not only for tigers but also for leopards, which are often used as substitutes for tigers in Chinese remedies," he said.

Hötte said conservationists have had very little contact with the secretive government of North Korea.

"But as far as we know," he said, "the regime does little to protect tigers and other wildlife."

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