Beijing: A pair of endangered Amur leopards has been spotted in northeastern China, an indication that population of the extremely rare cat is recovering in the country.
In 2007, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded that Amur leopards were extinct in China and only 19 to 26 survived in Russia.
It is the first time that field cameras caught two Amur leopards at the same time in northeastern Chinese province of Jilin, home to a quarter of all the rarest cats in the world.
Amur leopards, classified by the IUCN as critically endangered, are in the highest risk category in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
One of the reasons for the sighting is an improved habitat for the animals, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
China established a nature reserve in Hunchun in 2011 to protect big cats like Amur leopards and Siberian tigers.
"The two leopards, a male and a female, are very much like lovers," Lang Jianmin, education director with the animal conservation bureau in the forest-clad Hunchun City, said.
Lang said the film of the leopards, side by side, was taken on November 16.
"We`ve hardly seen pictures like these. Amur leopards do not live together unless they are mating. And the honeymoon, once every three years, lasts only about a week," Lang added.
However, the rare scene of the couple, together with a survey released in April shows that the population of Amur leopards has been recovering in China, the agency said.
The survey, co-conducted by Jilin Provincial Forestry Department (JPFD) and World Wide Fund for Nature, said that the predators are making a comeback as China has improved efforts to protect forests and fight poaching.
Eight Amur leopards, two males and six females, were identified in the survey. Their habitat has grown to 2,064 square kilometres, which is three to four times of that in the late 1990s, according to the survey carried out in Jilin`s Changbai Mountains.
Echoing the report, scientists with the Hunchun Nature Reserve said their field cameras spotted Serbian tigers and Amur leopards more than 20 times from August to November.