The Animal Facts Editorial Team
March 29, 2023 3:30 pm
San Diego Zoo, California, the United States
Not one but two Amur leopard cubs have taken their first steps out of the den where they were born at the San Diego Zoo. Each of these cubs is precious considering it is estimated as little as 300 Amur leopards remain on Earth. San Diego Zoo have a successful breeding project for the species with this being their third litter since 2018.
Gaylene Thomas, wildlife care manager at the San Diego Zoo said “There are so few of them left in their native habitat that every birth carries so much weight — and every living individual promises a glimmer of hope.”
The as yet unnamed cubs have spent their first few weeks of their life developing a bond with mother Satka in a secluded den at the world famous attraction. Now they are beginning to make their way out in to the habitat where they can greet guests. During their time in the den keepers only saw them through remote cameras set up to monitor them and their development.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the progress made by the cubs,” said Thomas. “They have grown so much, and have already started showcasing their unique personalities. The cubs will get their first full veterinary exam soon, and we will know more, including their sex.”
San Diego Zoo breed the Amur leopard as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). This program ensures the captive population of this species is self-sustaining and genetically diverse. Under the program the zoo welcomed a litter of two females in 2018 and two males in 2020 both fathered by male Oskar, also the sire of this litter.
Amur leopards are considered critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Poaching and habitat loss has decimated their populations. Fewer than 100 remain in the wilds of Northern Asia while 220 are cared for by 94 accredited zoos globally.
“San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s work in Asia is essential for conserving endangered species that call that region home,” said Dr. Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “The good news is, we see positive results. For example, through the efforts of numerous on-the-ground conservation organizations and zoological institutions, the Amur leopard population has recently increased by more than 50 percent. This is a monumental achievement, proving that conservation works and our vision to build a world where all life thrives can be realized. We only need to maintain the course, and ultimately, we will succeed.”
Amur leopards will hunt for several prey items at a time. These are then stashed until they complete their hunt when they will return and consume all the prey items they have hunted.
Image: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
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