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Hunters bag one of last Amur leopards

'Cowardice or stupidity' does for female

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Hunters in Russia's Far East have killed one of just seven female Amur leopards remaining in the wild, the WWF has announced.

The wild Amur leopard population is estimated to be down to 25 to 34 individuals, with more males than females because "cats tend to breed males when under stress", Reuters explains. At least 100 individuals are necessary to ensure the species' survival.

A local wildlife watchdog learned of the death through an anonymous tip-off. State wildlife officers later found the animal, which was killed 15 or 16 April . The WWF said: "A hunter shot the leopard through the tail bone. It tumbled over and was then beaten over the head with a heavy object."

Pavel Fomenko, WWF's biodiversity coordinator in Russia's Far East, said in a statement: "Leopard murder can only be provoked by cowardice or stupidity, in this case most likely by both."

Environmentalists have lobbied the Russian government for "tighter controls on its national parks in the Far East to crack down on leopard hunting". They also want to see protection of the animal's environment, threatened by human development.

In contrast to the Amur leopard's dire situation, the Amur tiger has clawed its way back from the brink of extinction. In the 1940s, there were an estimated 40 or so individuals roaming their native Siberia - a number now boosted to a healthier 480 to 520. ®

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