by Allison Ledwon
Dear Amur Leopard,
I’ve always been drawn to things with spots: Dalmatians, polka-dotted pants, t-shirts coved in spots of food because I cannot learn how to eat like a normal person. It seems only natural that I would be drawn to you, the Amur leopard, too.
I mean just look at you. You’re so beautiful but also super cool. You can jump 19 feet horizontally and 10 feet vertically. It’s insane, especially considering you’re only four and a half feet long max. That’s the size of an average 10 year old! We’re not even going to go into how fast you can run. (I lied – You can run up to 37 miles an hour).
As a solitary animal, you’ve shown me that being alone doesn’t mean you can’t be super amazing. I’ve been meaning to thank you for that, it’s a real confidence booster. What isn’t a confidence booster, however, is your classification as critically endangered. You’ve been like that since 1996, as long as I have been alive. It’s scary; there’s only a population of a little over 60 of you currently.
You face a lot of dangers in your home of southeast Russia and northeast China. I can’t say which is the scariest for you, but if I were one of you, I’d be absolutely terrified of poachers. You’ve never seen 101 Dalmatians before, unless there are suddenly TVs in forests, but there’s an evil lady named Cruella de Vil who tries to hurt all of the puppies (I told you I liked Dalmatians). She scared me beyond belief when I was growing up, and she’s not even real. It’s even scarier that you face Cruellas every day, whether they are trying to catch you for your skin, or what you eat. It’s hard to live when you can’t eat. There is also a lot of deforestation happening around you, breaking down your home. Nothing seems to be going your way right now, does it?
We are trying to help though. Both China and Russia are giving you more and more protected areas and are trying to crack down on the sale of your former friends’ fur. They are also trying to protect you and your friends that are still prowling by establishing anti-poaching brigades within protected areas. Basically they’re like your bodyguards, making sure that no one touches you.
I think the biggest threat to you and all of your leopard friends, as well as all the other animals is the lack of knowledge surrounding your struggle. The more people know, the more likely they are to support organizations that want to help you. I hope I did my part, and that everyone else can ‘spot’ how amazing you are too. (I apologize for the pun, but I mean it!)
A Leopard Lover