The Brookfield Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of two male Amur Leopard cubs. Born on April 18, the now 8 and 9 pound, two-month-old cubs are doing well and bonding with their mom, Lisa, behind the scenes. It is anticipated they will be making their public debut to zoo guests in mid-July.
Lisa, 7, and the sire, Kasha, 8, were introduced back in 2015, and are also the parents of Temur, a 2-year-old male who was recently transferred to another accredited zoo. Both parents were brought to Brookfield Zoo in 2013—Lisa from Saint Louis Zoological Park, and Kasha from Le Parc des Felins in France—as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited North American zoos and aquariums. Each plan manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.
The Amur Leopard is critically endangered with less than 65 animals left in the wild. To help the species, in 2013, an Amur Leopard Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) was convened under the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). The GSMP involves several regional zoo associations: the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in North America, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Eurasian Regional Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EARAZA). Through the GSMP, each of the participating organizations is able to maximize the genetic health, diversity, and sustainability of the managed population, which is important in the event a reintroduction plan is established. It has also been beneficial in sharing information and has increased greater cooperation between the regions in order to strengthen both in situ and ex situ conservation efforts for this species.
Currently, there are 82 Amur Leopards in 42 accredited North American zoos. The work that Brookfield Zoo is doing and the successful birth of these two new cubs marks a crucial addition to the species population.
“We are all very excited about the births of our two Amur Leopard cubs,” said Amy Roberts, senior curator of mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society. “It is our hope that guests will not only enjoy seeing these very charismatic cubs exploring and playing in their outdoor habitat, but will also gain an appreciation for the species and learn why conservation efforts are so important for this Leopard.”
Amur Leopards, known for their keen senses of hearing, vision, and smell, are a nocturnal species. Their range previously encompassed the Amur River basin and the mountains of northeastern China and the Korean peninsula. Today, they are found only in one isolated population in the Russian Far East, although there may be a few individuals in the Jilin Province of northeast China. They are the northernmost subspecies of Leopard in the world and are often mistaken for Snow Leopards. Amur Leopards live in temperate forests with cold winters and hot summers, and typically rest in trees and dense vegetation or among the rocks during the day. The biggest threats to these solitary animals are poaching; retribution hunting; a decrease in their habitat from fires, logging, and human settlement; and a decline in their prey.