The Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend has announced the addition of three rare Amur Leopard cubs, born to resident leopards Pearl and Sergei at the zoo March 20.
Amur Leopards are the world’s rarest big cat, considered critically endangered with only an estimated 70 remaining in the wild and just over 100 in captivity. Wild leopards have high death rates due to poaching and loss of habitat. They are only found in far eastern Russia and northeast China.
Efforts to breed Amur Leopards in captivity have have shown minimal success. Potawatomi Zoo’s three cubs are the only surviving ones born in North American zoos so far this year.
“Over the last few years there have been few to no Amur Leopard births in North American zoos,” stated Josh Sisk, general curator. “For Potawatomi Zoo to have three of these very rare cubs born is a great achievement.”
The Potawatomi Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan breeding program for Amur Leopards, actively engaging in breeding genetically healthy leopards to help populate the critically endangered species.
“The fact that we have the only three in the country is fantastic for both our zoo and the population overall,” said Marcy Dean, Potawatomi Zoo executive director. “This puts Potawatomi Zoo on the map both locally and globally. We are thrilled to contribute in such a meaningful way to the survival of this critically endangered species.”
The cubs had their first veterinary check May 14 and have been given a clean bill of health by veterinarian Dr. Ronan Eustace. They also received their first round of vaccinations.
The Amur Leopard cubs will not be available for public viewing for another month or two according to the zoo, due to their age and size.