New census data released last week on the Amur snow leopard has revealed that there are now twice as many of the world’s rarest cat as in 2007.

It has been discovered that at least 57 Amur leopards exist in the Land of the Leopard National Park, in Russia. They numbered just 30 cats at the time of a previous census in 2007. There were also found to be 8-12 more leopards in neighboring areas of China, which means that the total number has more than doubled in 7 years, according to phys.org.

World's Rarest Cat: Amur Leopard Numbers Double

High hopes for future population growth

The Amur snow leopard is a rare subspecies considered to be the world’s rarest wild cat, and the census information was gathered with the use of camera traps, which took around 10,000 photographs over an area of more than 900,000 acres of primary leopard habitat, in order to identify almost 60 individual animals.

The individuals are identified by the distinctive patterns of spots found on their fur. The Land of the Leopard National Park worked in conjunction with the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the census, with support from The Amur Leopard Center and WWF-Russia.

“Despite still being on the brink of extinction, the Amur leopard is showing encouraging signs of gradual recovery, demonstrating that dedicated conservation efforts do pay off. The collaboration between Russia and China to protect vast areas of suitable leopard habitat is the next key step to protect this species,” said the director of WWF´s global species programme, Carlos Drews.

Amur leopard monitoring in China

The Land of the Leopard National Park was established in 2012, and contains all known breeding areas of the Amur leopard. It was seen as a lifeline to the critically endangered species at the time, and it would appear to be providing one. The park also contains the endangered Amur tiger.

“The national park became the main organizational force for leopard protection and research,” said Yury Darman, head of WWF Russia Amur Branch and a member of the Supervisory Board of The Amur Leopards Center.

The next step for conservationists is to begin monitoring leopard populations in nature reserves just over the border in China. It is hoped that at some point in the future a Sino-Russian transboundary nature reserve could be established.