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|A leopard at Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes, France|
|Subspecies:||P. p. orientalis|
|Panthera pardus orientalis
Before being subsumed by the Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group to P. p. orientalis, it was regarded as a separate subspecies, with the taxonomic name P. p. japonensis. Results of genetic studies indicate that it is genetically close to the Amur leopard, and probably evolved from it recently.
The North-Chinese leopard was first described on the basis of a single tanned skin, which was fulvous above and pale beneath with large roundish, oblong black spots on the back and limbs, and small black spots on the head. The spots on the back, shoulders and sides formed a ring around a central fulvous spot. The black spots on the nape were elongated, and large ones on the chest formed a necklace. The tail was spotted and had four black rings at the tip.
It is similar in size to the Amur leopard, and its coats is darker and almost orange in colour. The rosettes are also darker, smaller and closer together with the possibility of spots being within the rosettes, a trait more often found in jaguars than in leopards. Its fur is also relatively long when compared to other leopard subspecies. The average weight of adult wild males is 50 kg (110 lb) and of adult females 32 kg (71 lb).
Distribution and habitat
Historic records from before 1930 indicate that North-Chinese leopards lived near Beijing and in the mountains to the north-west. They possibly ranged up to the southern Ussuri region. It was previously estimated that about 2,500 North-Chinese leopards remain in the wild of China. As of today, only small and isolated populations remain, as estimated by the bureau in Shanxi. They also lived in Lanzhou in Northwest China, north to the mountains at the southern region of the Chinese Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia, and near Harbin in the northeast.
Ecology and behavior
The North-Chinese leopard is solitary except for mating pairs and females with cubs. Adult males and females usually maintain territories. The leopard mates in January and February and after a gestation period of 105–110 days two to three young are born. The cubs weigh about one pound at birth, and open their eyes when they are about 10 days old. They will stay with their mother until they are about 20–24 months old.
Its prey base consists of deer and wild boar.
About 100 North-Chinese leopards are kept in zoos worldwide, with the vast majority in Europe. One male, known as Cheung Chi was responsible for siring over fifteen cubs up to 1988. Now he has over 40 descendants, leading to problems with maintaining genetic diversity. There is a European Endangered Species Program for this leopard for which roughly 60 individuals are participating. There are 11 North-Chinese leopards in Taiyuan Zoo (太原动物园) until 2014, Shanxi province in North-China.
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