The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park has welcomed the birth of a critically-endangered Amur leopard.
Born within the zoo world’s only purpose-built Amur leopard habitat, keepers are yet to establish if there is more than one cub, due to limited human contact.
The complex has been designed solely to breed Amur leopards with the hope of adding to the very limited existing population in the wild. It is estimated that there are only 100 Amur leopards remaining, due to habitat loss, poaching and conflict with humans.
The new arrival joins father Freddo who arrived from Tallinn Zoo in Estonia, and mother, Arina, from Twycross Zoo in the Midlands.
Highland Wildlife Park hope the rare big cat cub will eventually be released into the wild in Russia, making this the first ever reintroduction of an Amur leopard to its native habitat.
Douglas Richardson, head of living collections at the park, at Kincraig, near Kingussie, said,
“Initially we confirmed the birth by observing the behaviour of the mother, as Arina had become increasingly secretive.
“We have since heard cub vocalisations and one of our keepers caught a fleeting glimpse of Arina moving a cub from a distance.
“At this early stage we do not know if Arina has had more than one cub and we also need to emphasise that the first few weeks are a vulnerable time in a cub’s life. We have motion sensitive cameras in place and hope these will tell us everything is okay and that we have healthy offspring.
Mr Richardson continued, “Being able to send captive-bred Amur leopards back to a part of their historic wild range in Russia would represent an extraordinary conservation success.
“Working with conservation partners, including ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and conservation authorities in Russia, we hope to introduce cubs born at the park to a region northeast of Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East.
“This is incredibly exciting and again demonstrates the vital role zoos and conservation breeding programmes have in protecting threatened species.”
To watch an interview with Vickie Larkin, Senior Carnivore keeper at RSZZ Highland Wildlife Park please click here
To find out more about Highland Wildlife Park go to www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk
Main image: Amur leopard Freddo – Credit Siân Addison
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