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WHF assisting in Global Conservation Project with World's Most Endangered Big Cat

Published: 06/10/2015 by WHF

» Conservation

WHF’s (Wildlife Heritage Foundation) first born female Amur Leopard, Zeya.. set to travel to Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah USA… as part of the breeding program. She leaves on Tuesday - 6th October.


Zeya and her brother Manchurian were born in June 2012 to Xizi who came from Helsinki zoo in Finland in 2007 and Hogar who was from the Czech Republic and has been at WHF since 2011.. This is Xizi’s second litter of offspring, one of her first litter Anuy has already produced 2 female cubs in Hiroshima in Japan.


At just over 3 years of age, it is the perfect time for Zeya to move on in the hope she will produce cubs within the breeding program.


WHF’s headkeeper Clare said, “‘We are all very sad to see Zeya leave WHF, but it is brilliant to be contributing another young female to the breeding program of the World’s most endangered big cat species. She is a fantastic cat with a huge personality and plenty of character.. We are confident she will be a wonderful mum as is her own mother Xizi and it is a testament to the work we endeavour to do in being able to further help to supplement the captive Amur Leopard population”


With only around 40-50 left in the wild and around 100 left in captivity, the Amur leopard is the rarest big cat on our planet. Even at this critical level, there is still hope. In conjunction John Lewis of Wildlife Vets International we are working on a breeding programme that will ultimately lead to reintroducing Amur leopards into the wild.


The Amur leopard is probably the only big cat for which a reintroduction program using zoo stock is considered a necessary  conservation action. The reintroduction of the Amur Leopard has now been given the go-ahead and is beginning to come into effect as of Spring 2016.


Description: The Amur leopard is adapted to the cool climate by having thick fur which grows up to 7.5 cm long in winter. For camouflage in the snow their coat is paler than other leopard subspecies. The Amur leopard’s rosettes are widely spaced and larger than those seen on other leopards. Their tongue has tiny rasps or hooks, called denticles, which are used to scrape the meat off of the bones of their prey.

Weight: Males generally weigh 32-47 kg, but can weigh up to 65 kg. Females are smaller than the males at 25-43 kg.

Breeding: Females first breed at an age of 3-4 years. After a gestation period of around 12 weeks, cubs are born in litters of 1-4 individuals, with an average litter size of just over 2. The cubs stay with their mother for up to two years before becoming fully independent. Amur leopards in zoos show some evidence of breeding seasonality with a peak in births in late spring/early summer.

Longevity: In the wild, leopards live for 10-15 years and they may reach 20 years in captivity.


For more information on Big Cats visit www.whf.org.uk