It’s always a great day at a zoo when a new baby animal is born, especially when the new arrival is part of an endangered species. Each new birth is a step towards repopulating a species facing extinction.
Recently, one zoo celebrated the births of two Amur Leopards, a welcome arrival for a critically endangered species — and they happen to also be adorable.
On March 7, the Niabi Zoo, in Coal Valley, Illinois, announced the “successful birth” of their two Amur Leopard cubs, one male and one female.
It’s a big deal considering how rare this species is: there are fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild, making them the most critically endangered big cat in the world, according to a press release by the zoo.
Even in captivity, Amur Leopard births are very rare: this is the first such birth in 2022, and only seven were born in 2021.
In 2019, the Niabi Zoo was chosen to partner with the Amur Leopard Species Survival planning group. They are one of only 50 zoos in North America to be part of the species repopulation effort.
After “lots of planning” and delays from COVID, they received a female, Iona, from the UK’s Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, to mate with their “genetically valuable” male leopard, Jilin.
The leopards were paired as mates after Iona’s arrival last year, and these were their first cubs. The zoo writes that Jilin is a “proud first time dad,” but for now is letting his mate do most of the parenting.
“He will spend time as a bachelor for a bit while Iona tends to the new cubs,” Niabi Zoo wrote on Facebook. “He never lets a day go by without territory marking.”
Sadly the news wasn’t all positive: the leopards gave birth to a third cub, who died after a few days.
Still, the other two cubs are “thriving,” and are developing well in their mother’s care. Their arrival was a welcome sign of hope for the effort to save this critically endangered species.
“Iona is an exceptional mother and has been vigilant with her cubs. Our zoo team is proud to support this amazing species!” the zoo wrote.
“We are honored and excited to have been able to contribute to such an important conservation program for such a critically endangered species,” zoo director Lee Jackson said in the press release.
“It speaks very well of the regard in which Niabi is held in the international conservation community, and to the expertise of the Niabi Zoo animal care staff.”
What adorable leopard cubs. Congrats to the Niabi Zoo on this successful birth that is sure to go a long way in saving this critically endangered species.
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