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201414Feb22:11

Prague Zoo wel­comes crit­i­cally endan­gered new­born Amur leop­ard cubs

Infor­ma­tion
pub­lished 14 Feb­ru­ary 2014 | mod­i­fied 25 Decem­ber 2014
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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.

Amur leopard triplet PragueThe 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.

Amur leop­ards live in the north­ern­most part of the species range in far-​eastern Rus­sia. The Amur leop­ard is one of the endan­gered, if not the most endan­gered, feline in the world. A Cen­sus in 2013 showed that there are 48 to 50 Amur leop­ards remain­ing in the wild, about 80 per cent of the species’ for­mer range dis­ap­peared between 1970 and 1983. Habi­tat destruc­tion by unsus­tain­able log­ging, for­est fires and land con­ver­sion for farm­ing infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment are the main causes, while the species has also been hit hard by ungu­late poach­ing. Ungu­lates are large, hoofed mam­mals and the main prey for Amur leop­ards.

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)



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