San Diego Zoo moved a pair of Amur leopards and a snow leopard into a set of new exhibits this week ahead of the new exhibits opening. The four leopard habitats add 16,500 square foot of exhibits to the Barlin-Kahn Family Panda Trek area of the zoo.
The new habitats feature multi-level living space with a number of rocky outcroppings and felled trees which they can use to climb about the exhibit.
Another feature is the overhead passageways. These enclosed passageways allow the leopards to move between exhibits going over the heads of visitors. Todd Speis, senior keeper at San Diego Zoo said, “The overhead passageways are one of the exciting features of this exhibit.” These give the cats access to each of the exhibit helping to enrich their lives. They will mean that all of the leopards can swap living spaces.
Speis explained another one of their advantages, “This feature allows the cats to get up high, which is a unique way for the visitor to observe the cat, and it’s also a place a cat naturally wants to be-it wants to be high where it can see its whole territory.”
Currently at the exhibit are brother Amur leopards and a single snow leopard that will be joined by two friends in the next week. Into the future they will be joined by other cats so that they can form breeding pairs. One of the habitats is set up as a breeding enclosure where a mum and her cubs can hang out. It even has a glass window so gusts have the best viewing opportunities.
Breeding programs for this species are incredibly important. Just 40 Amur leopards are believed to be left in the wilds of southern Russia and northern China. Zoos worldwide house about 300 of these cats which means they are one of the world’s most endangered species.
Snow leopards are faring a bit better but are still listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature with just 7,000 left in the wild. They are naturally found in Asia’s central mountain ranges.
These new enclosures are the result of $3 million campaign which more than 1,600 donors contributed to. They are part of a campaign which the zoo is undertaking to move animals out of aging exhibits.
Photo Credit: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo