A new national park in the Russian Far East will protect critically endangered Siberian (Amur) tigers and the world’s rarest big cat: the Far Eastern (Amur) leopard. Land of the Leopard National Park safeguards 1,011 square miles of leopard and tiger habitat.

Declared on April 9, the park combines three existing protected areas: Kedrovya Pad Reserve, Barsovy Federal Wildlife Refuge, and Borisovkoe Plateau Regional Wildlife Refuge. In addition, key previously unprotected lands have been added into the park along the Chinese border and in the northeast portion of the leopard’s range.

“The new park is great news for Far Eastern leopards and Amur tigers,” said WCS Russia Program Director Dale Miquelle. “We commend the Russian government for their foresight in creating this new protected area, and we are optimistic that it will provide a critical refuge for some of the most endangered big cats on the planet.”

The last 30 or so remaining Far Eastern leopards roam a narrow sliver of Russian forests between the Sea of Japan to the east and China’s Jilin Province to the west. While tigers occur over a much broader region to the north, this Southwest region of Primorskii Krai also retains a small, vital population of the big cats that regularly move across the border into Hunchun Reserve China. Their survival is therefore key to the recovery of tigers in northeast China.

“This is tremendous news for big cat conservation,” said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director for Asia. “The creation of this park greatly increases the amount of land protecting critical populations of two of the world’s big cats, and it will go a long way to securing their future. We look forward to continuing to provide whatever support is requested to help conserve tigers and leopards in the region.”

WCS has been providing assistance to the Russian government to conserve Siberian tigers and Far Eastern leopards since 1993. WCS conservationists work in the protected area and surrounding regions to monitor populations of tigers, leopards, and their prey, and to conduct law enforcement training and monitoring. They also run a fire protection program and radio telemetry studies, mentor Russian graduate students researching the big cats, and conduct wildlife health studies.