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Critically endangered twin Amur leopards born at San Diego Zoo
Births help boost population of world’s most endangered big cat species
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is celebrating the birth of twin Amur leopards. This is a noteworthy occasion because, according to the zoo release,1 there are fewer than an estimated 300 of these big cats left on the planet. The cubs have yet to be named.
“Witnessing the birth of Amur leopards is always an emotional experience,” stated Gaylene Thomas, wildlife care manager at the San Diego Zoo, in an organizational release.1 “There are so few of them left in their native habitat that every birth carries so much weight—and every living individual promises a glimmer of hope.”
The cubs have emerged from their birthing den with their mother, Satka, allowing zoo guests to see these adorable cats. Wildlife care specialists have been closely monitoring the cubs throughout the last few weeks via a remote camera system to examine their behaviors and document their development. That initial hands-off approach was key, as it enabled the youngsters to bond with and learn from their mother.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the progress made by the cubs,” added Thomas. “They have grown so much, and have already started showcasing their unique personalities. The cubs will get their first full veterinary exam soon, and we will know more, including their sex.”
The cubs were born as part of a breeding recommendation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). This is the third Amur leopard litter born at the San Diego Zoo. The first litter was in April 2018 (with 2 females), and the second was in April 2020 (with 2 males). All 3 were naturally sired by male Amur leopard Oskar.
Amur leopards are categorized as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species due to significant habitat loss and poaching for their thick, spotted coats.1 They once were numerous across northeastern China, Russia, and the Korean peninsula, but now there are fewer than 300 Amur leopards left on earth, and fewer than 100 remain in their historic range in the Primorye region of the Russian Far East. The rest are in managed human care.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and other accredited zoological organizations have teamed up to help conserve this critical species. Over 94 institutions caring for over 220 leopards engage in the Global Species Management Program (GSMP), an international conservation effort where scientists work to increase regional wildlife populations.
“San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s work in Asia is essential for conserving endangered species that call that region home,” expressed Nadine Lamberski, DVM, DACZM, DECZM (ZHM), chief conservation and wildlife health officer for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.1
“The good news is, we see positive results. For example, through the efforts of numerous on-the-ground conservation organizations and zoological institutions, the Amur leopard population has recently increased by more than 50%. This is a monumental achievement, proving that conservation works and our vision to build a world where all life thrives can be realized. We only need to maintain the course, and ultimately, we will succeed.”1
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance celebrates birth of two rare Amur leopards. News release. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. March 28, 2023. Accessed April 6, 2023. https://sandiegozoowildlifealliance.org/pr/AmurCubs2023