For the first time in Prague Zoo’s thirteen year history of keeping Amur leopards, cubs were born. A triplet of this Critically Endangered species, according the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, was born end of November last year.
The three cubs, two male and one female, are born to three-year-old mother Khanka and four-year-old father Kirin. “Khanka proved to be a good mother right from the start and takes good care of her kittens,” says Pavel Brandl, curator of the mammals at Prague Zoo.
The cubs are doing well behind-the-scenes with their mom, Khanka. In January, they started to explore their environment and began to leave the whelping box. All the cubs are very curious, according to zookeeper Christine Bachůrková, especially the male cub that is melanistic (a mutation that results in dark fur), is rather brave. Although they are still being suckled, they’re starting to get their first meat.
In about a month the cubs will be on display at the leopard enclosure on top of the hill. At the moment the visitor can only see father Kirin, who is alternating with the other female Amur leopard in Prague, Betynou.
Numbers are increasing from a few years ago when just 30 remained and WWF plans to keep this upward trend with extensive conservation measures. Every leopard has a unique pattern of spots, so experts can recognise almost every one of the remaining leopard by photo or video images.
Zoo breeding programmes could be extremely important, if these programmes are able to sustain or enhance genetic diversity and succeed in returning individuals in the wild. Besides well-planned breeding schemes, it requires adaptation programmes – teaching the captive-bred animal to survive in the wild, and a suitable habitat.
The above news item is translated from materials available at Prague Zoo. Original text is edited for content and length.
(Source: Prague Zoo news, 13.02.2014)