Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of a Critically Endangered Amur (ah-Moor) Leopard cub named Sochi, born December 3.
The young male, named for the Russian city hosting this year's winter Olympics, is the tenth birth of his species at Denver Zoo since Amur Leopards arrived at the zoo about 25 years ago. After spending some time bonding mom, Dazma (Dazz-mah), Sochi can now be seen by zoo guests inside the zoo's feline building.
Sochi is the second cub for Dazma and her mate, Hari-Kari (Harry Care-ee). Hari-Kari was born at El Paso Zoo in 2003, while Dazma was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2001. The two came to Denver Zoo and were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Amur Leopards take their name from the Amur region in eastern Russia. Once found from South Korea to north of the China-Russia border, they are now nearly extinct in the wild due to poaching for fur, loss of habitat and trophy hunting. In fact, Amur Leopards are considered the most endangered cats on the planet. Though there are differing reports about just how many of them remain in the wild, the largest estimation is less than 50 individuals, compared to 96 in North American zoos. In 1989, when Denver Zoo's first Amur Leopard arrived, there were still less than 50 in the wild and only 10 in North American zoos.
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