Two Amur Leopard cubs, born at the Minnesota Zoo on May 29, took their first tentative steps into their exhibit last week, charming zoo guests and the media. The cubs, one male and one female, spent the last several months nursing, bonding with mom, and building up their strength.
Amur leopards are a part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP)
through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). As part of a breeding recommendation
from the SSP, the cubs’ mother, “Polina,” came to the Zoo in 2007 from the
Audubon Nature Institute in Louisiana; the father, “Chobby,” came from Olomouc
Zoo in the Czech Republic in 2009.
Dr. Tara Harris, Director of Conservation at the Minnesota Zoo, said “These births are significant not only because Amur leopards are critically endangered, but also because reintroduction from zoo-bred lineages is under consideration in Russia. The Minnesota Zoo’s cubs are part of the global population that would be used for such a program.”
Amur leopards are silent, sleek, and strong hunters of deep forests. Their thick coats and long legs help them survive in the cold and snowy climate of eastern Asia. Strictly carnivores, the Amur leopard’s diet consists of mostly small deer. Once a kill has been made, they will carry their prey to a high point for safe storage. These stealthy, speedy hunters excel at climbing and jumping. Living alone, rather than in the company of other Amur leopards, they can keep and defend territories of up to 40 square miles.
Encroaching civilization and roads, poaching, and exploitation of forests have brought this animal to the brink of extinction. Fewer than 40 animals are estimated to remain in the wild, resulting in the classification of the Amur leopard as a critically-endangered species.
Photo Credit: Minnesota Zoo