Twycross Zoo has announced the birth of two of the world’s rarest big cats, Amur leopards. The cubs are the second pair of babies born to mum Kristen and dad Davidoff and, just like their older siblings, bring hope for the survival of this rare species on the brink of extinction in the wild.
Native to Russian Far East forests and mountains, the critically endangered species faces the very real threat of disappearing from the wild forever. The solitary hunters suffer from habitat loss, increasing prey scarcity and diseases, as well as being poached for their beautiful fur. Latest expert estimations suggest that the number of wild Amur leopards has shrunk to less than 70 individuals in recent years, although the exact number is very difficult to count as they are so rare. With just 200 of these leopards in zoos across the world, the new cubs at Twycross Zoo will help ensure healthy genetic lines in the captive-bred, and potentially wild, populations.
Twycross Zoo is working with partner organisations, such as Wildlife Vets International, towards the reintroduction of these animals into the wild and securing the continuation of viable wild populations. The zoo also participates in the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) and hopes that the new cubs, as well as their older siblings, could be part of these wider long-term conservation plans. The Russian government approved the plan for the Amur leopards’ reintroduction in June 2015, and whilst the progress is slow due to the continuing international negotiations, it bodes very well for the continued survival of this species.
The Twycross Zoo keepers reported that there were no complications during the birth and soon after the cubs were already active and suckling. In the wild, Amur leopard cubs are weaned when they are three months old and usually leave the mother before reaching two years. Similarly, Kristen’s first pair of cubs, which were born in 2014, have made their move towards adulthood. Arina moved to Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, Scotland earlier this year and Alexei will soon be transported to Tallinn Zoo in Estonia.
Dr Charlotte Macdonald, Director of Life Sciences, said: “We are excited about our new arrivals and it is great to see how their mother is confidently responding to the cubs now that she is a more experienced mum. The birth is fantastic news for the entire species as Twycross Zoo actively participates in the conservation of the critically endangered Amur leopards and captive-bred cubs such as these two could help ensure the long-term survival of the species.”
Twycross Zoo is open to the public from 10am to 6pm. For more information, visit www.twycrosszoo.org.
Photo credit: Twycross Zoo
- Now celebrating over 50 years of business, Twycross Zoo is one of the UK’s major zoos and a World Primate Centre, home to one of the most diverse primate collections in Europe. The zoo cares for around 150 species of animals and is the only place in the UK to have every type of Great Ape (gorilla, orang-utan, chimpanzee and bonobo) and a wide collection of gibbons. The zoo is also home to many endangered species such as Amur leopards, Asian elephants, giraffes and snow leopards.
- Twycross Zoo welcomes around 500,000 visitors a year to its 80-acre site in Leicestershire, funds and conducts scientific research, and has an active and award-winning education and outreach programme.
- The zoo contributes to conservation in the wild through its Conservation Welfare Fund (CWF). The CWF was created in 2006 and has supported over 55 conservation and welfare projects from many different countries around the world.
- Since 2013, Twycross Zoo has renovated several of its enclosures and opened brand new exhibits including Elephant Creek, Lorikeet Landing, a lemur walk-through and the Butterfly House. Other species which have received upgrades to their enclosures include zebra, giant tortoises, meerkats, Amur leopards, chimpanzees, penguins, bushdogs and monkeys.
- In March 2015, Twycross Zoo announced the launch of a £55 million Masterplan vision to develop the zoo over the next 20 years. Plans include redevelopment of the zoo site and brand new enclosures for many of its animal species. After the opening of Giraffe Savannah at Easter 2015 and Gibbon Forest in February 2016, attention now turns to the development of a new chimpanzee habitat.
- Twycross Zoo’s Himalaya Centre offers a spacious 300 seat all-day restaurant, with views overlooking the snow leopards in their Himalayan landscape, corporate facilities, a gift shop and a soft play attraction.