Last week the Jacksonville Zoo announced the the birth of a rare Amur Leopard cub. Born August 27th, the baby was initially not gaining weight properly and so the zoo decided to hand-rear the cub. Amur Leopards are critically endangered in the wild with only 50 estimated to live in the Russian Far East - their native land. The Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance works to protect these beautiful animals and you can learn more on their site.
Officials at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens announced a male leopard cub, born on Aug. 27, will go on exhibit on Saturday, Nov. 6. Initially, visitors will be able to view the cub at the indoor Komodo dragon exhibit, where they can see staff feeding and caring for him periodically. When the cub becomes independent he will be moved to the Zoo’s leopard exhibit. While the cub occupies their exhibit, the Zoo’s two Komodo dragons will be rotated daily in their outdoor exhibit as long as the weather is warm; otherwise, they will stay in the holding area for the exhibit.
The cub had to be separated from his mother five days after his birth for hand rearing because he wasn’t gaining weight as he should. A female sibling didn’t survive. Although Jacksonville Zoo has successfully bred both generic leopards and Persian leopards previously, this is the Zoo’s first time breeding the critically-endangered Amur leopard. Makarii, the ten-year-old mother, and Nicolai, the nine-year-old father of the cub, have been at the Jacksonville Zoo since December 2006.
“The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens participates in many important conservation programs. But rarely do we get a chance to make a contribution to such a critical program,” said Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Executive Director Tony Vecchio. “The Amur leopard is so close to the brink of extinction that every birth is significant.”
Amur leopards are classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. There are only approximately 50 remaining in the Russian Far East – their native land. Hunting for their coat and bones is the animals’ main threat to the survival of this species. Jacksonville Zoo has named these leopards as one of its primary in situ (in the natural habitat) conservation causes and has contributed to the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan for the preservation of these animals in zoos throughout the nation. For more information or to contribute to this important cause, visit amur-leopard.org.