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Rare Footage of Snow Leopard Family Released by WWF [VIDEO]

Feb 01, 2014 02:38 PM EST

Video footage from camera traps in the wilderness of eastern Russia reveals the habits of one of the most endangered species on the planet: the Amur leopard.

As part of a project called the “Leopard's Reality Show” the World Wildlife Fund and Land of the Leopard National Park in Vladivostok installed 10 camera traps near the remains of sika deer.

The cameras filmed an Amur leopard feeding her young on the deer carcasses, providing wildlife researchers with valuable information on how the animal raises its kittens in the wild and offers a glimpse of leopard family dynamics in the wild.

The leopard in the film, which researchers have named Kedrovka, has three kittens, a rarity for leopards.

The footage contradicts a previously held belief that leopards from one “family” ate together, much like lions of the same pride do. But the footage reveals Kedrovka's kittens eating the deer carcass one at a time, with the strongest eating first. This means the weakest kitten has the smallest chance of being fed, the WWF reported, because as more time goes by, the more opportunities for the meal to be interrupted will occur.

“In the video we can see how the mother urges the weakest kitten to eat after the other two have abandoned the prey. But it is not as fussy as most human mothers, when the weakest kitten starts to limp on one paw and whines about it, the mother just ignores it”, said the WWF's Vasily Solkin, who works from the organization's Amur office.

“All information gathered about leopard upbringing is crucial for WWF conservation efforts. With few leopards left, they may be genetically too close and inbreeding may weaken their chances of survival,” the WWF reported, adding that plans to introduce captive-bred leopards into the wild are in the works, but that for them to be successful animal behavior experts must know how leopards are raised and taught hunting skills in the wild.

According to a census compiled in 2013, there are no more than 50 Amur leopards remaining in the wild, the WWF said, noting that their numbers have declined due to habitat destruction. Upwards of 80 percent of the Amur leopard's native range has disappeared in the last half century, mainly from unsustainable logging, forest fires and land conversion for farming.

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