Critically Endangered Amur Leopard arrives in Yorkshire
13th February 2023
The award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park has welcomed a new Amur Leopard named Kristen, as part of a strategic international breeding programme to help save the endangered species.
Kristen is settling into her new home at the 6,000 square metre Leopard Heights reserve and will then be gradually introduced to the park’s male Amur Leopard, Drake.
The eleven-year-old, who has previously given birth to four cubs and is a grandmother, is seen as an ideal partner for twelve-year-old Drake.
Their introduction is part of a global project to protect the species whose numbers have dwindled to less than 100 in the wild.
“We are delighted to welcome Kristen and a successful breeding would boost the global campaign to ensure Amur Leopards survive,” said Carnivore Team Leader Kim Wilkins,
She added: “Kristen will spend a few weeks settling in and getting used to the new sights and smells at the compound and Drake’s smell too. Then after about a month when we deem its good and ready, we will introduce the leopards.
“Amur Leopards are one of the rarest species on the planet and if we don’t run breeding programmes like this one, this species will go extinct.”
Kristen moved the 70 miles from Twycross Zoo, in Leicestershire, earlier this month. She replaces Freya, another Amur female, who went from the park to Ireland as part of the breeding programme.
Kristen, who was born in Czechoslovakia, has had two litters – the first in 2014 and the second in 2016. Her daughter, born in 2014 herself, had a litter in 2018.
The park, which is the UK’s No 1 wildlife walkthrough adventure, has already produced two cubs, who were born in 2015 and are now in France and Colorado.
Ranger Wilkins added; "We are so proud to be involved in this programme. The continued and appropriate breeding of this critically endangered species is the only way to save Amur Leopards,
“It means that hopefully one day more leopards can be reintroduced more into protected areas in their native Russia and China.
“The whole population of Amur Leopards still sits at around only 100 individuals, which is tiny, so the work that we and other facilities are doing is essential for the future of Amur Leopards and the survival of this species.
"Leopard Heights was designed as a breeding complex for these naturally shy animals- there are 2 smaller reserves that park visitors don’t see, and this is where Kristen will initially settle in. Visitors won’t be able to see her to begin with while she makes herself at home.
“We will be following Kristen’s story behind closed doors on the parks social media, as she settles in and gets ready to venture into the large main reserve.
“We can’t wait to have more babies. We haven’t had Amur babies for a little while now, so it is really exciting.
Leopard Heights, which is the largest leopard enclosure in the world, has an 8m tall tower with a 100 square metre viewing platform, giving an unrivalled experience and view.
The WildLife Foundation charity, which is based at the park, has supported conservation projects in Russia, including the Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Aleeska, Russia, which helped save orphaned animals and reintroduced them back into the wild. Visitors to YWP have donated thousands to fund the initiatives.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and rare species including Amur Tigers, Giraffes, Black Rhinos and the country’s only Polar Bears.