The WWF has released rare footage of the critically endangered Amur leopard, which is at high risk of extinction due to destruction of the species's eastern Russian habitat. Only about 50 Amur leopards remain in the wild, and little is known about their development and maturation. This new footage, however, could provide scientists with clues that are necessary to helping the species survive.
Part of a new project called "Spotted Family: Leopard's Reality Show," the WWF's clips came from a series of camera traps placed strategically in the wilderness, which researchers hope will provide a clearer understanding of the species' familial structures. The recent "episode" of the reality show includes a female leopard, which researchers have nicknamed Kedrovka, feeding her three kittens a deer carcass. Previously, scientists believed that Amur leopards fed similarly to lions, eating collectively as a family; this new footage, however, suggests the opposite is true. In the clips, Kedrovka encourages her kittens to eat one at a time, from strongest to weakest. Her behavior provides valuable insights into how the species is coping with threats to its survival.
According to the WWF, conservationists have plans to introduce captive-bred leopards into the wild, but only after they are able to gather more information about how Amur leopards raise their young. Additionally, scientists say it's crucial that they understand how kittens learn to hunt before proceeding with their conservation efforts -- and footage similar to that of Kedrovka and her kittens could be exactly the type of insight those scientists need.
You can watch the full "season" of Spotted Family here.