The Amur Leopard cubs at Potawatomi Zoo have been kept from view and safely tucked away with mom Pearl, since their birth on July 26th.
Just prior to Christmas, Zoo guests were treated with a glimpse of the little ladies exploring their outdoor exhibit, on their official public debut.
According to staff, each cub has her own personality. One of the girls is a bit more reserved, while the other sister is more eager and bold.
While the sex of the cubs is known, the Zoo has yet to choose names. Keepers anticipate recruiting the public’s assistance in selecting names, after the winter season.
Potawatomi Zoo is the oldest zoo in Indiana, USA. In an effort to protect the animals and guests from the sometimes-brutal cold of the winter season, the Zoo implemented “Winter Days”. The facility will be closed for regular hours during the season, but visitors can still experience some of the Zoo and its residents on specially selected days. For more info, please see the Zoo’s website: https://potawatomizoo.org/events/winter-days-at-potawatomi-zoo.
Potawatomi Zoo residents, 14 year-old Pearl and 18 year-old Sergei, are the parents of the cubs. The twins represent the fourth and fifth Amur Leopard cubs born at Potawatomi Zoo within the last two years. They are incredibly significant for both the Amur Leopard population and the Zoo. The remarkable birth marks nine successful Amur Leopard cubs born, through four litters, at the Zoo since 2007.
The Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a subspecies native to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and the Jilin Province of northeast China. They are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with approximately 70 individuals remaining in the wild and just over 200 in Zoos worldwide. They are on the brink of extinction in the wild due to poaching and loss of habitat.
Efforts at breeding Amur Leopards in captivity have been marginally successful at best, with just a handful of births in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facilities last year. The significance of Potawatomi Zoo’s twin cubs arriving 16 months after triplets, which were born in March of 2015, puts the Zoo on the conservation field map in terms of the Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) program’s breeding efforts. In the last year and a half, over 60% of viable Amur Leopard cub births in North American accredited zoological institutions took place at Potawatomi Zoo.
The Potawatomi Zoo, a participant in the AZA’s SSP program for Amur Leopards, is actively engaging in breeding genetically healthy Amur Leopards to help populate the critically endangered species. Amur Leopards are only found in Far Eastern Russia and Northeast China.