Critically Endangered Amur Leopard Cub takes first steps outside
11th September 2023
The only surviving critically endangered Amur Leopard cub born in Europe this year takes its first steps into its reserve at award winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Amur leopard are believed to be the rarest big cat in the world.
The birth – a significant step forward in the battle to save the species – was caught on CCTV in June.
The sobering statistic that this cub is the only addition to the breeding programme this year in the whole of the European programme was confirmed by coordinator Katharina Herrman. There are 48 zoos in the programme and 101 leopards.
Mother Kristen, who was only introduced to father Drake six months before as part of the international breeding programme, has been spending most of her time nuzzling the cub in the safety of the den ever since.
Cubs are only 2-3kg in weight when born and spend their first 6-8 weeks in the den.
Meanwhile, rangers have been monitoring the baby’s health and development.
But this week the 12 week old cub took its first monumental steps in a special outdoor nursery facility – out of the view of visitors.
Animal Director Dr Charlotte McDonald said: “We’re thrilled the cub is taking its first steps properly outside the den. It is another big step forward for this very important baby.
“There are approximately 120 Amur Leopards left in the wild, making this cub’s survival a significant development but even more so as it’s the only only surviving cub born in Europe this year.
“We are incredibly proud to be fulfilling our important role in the global battle to ensure the survival of this rare and beautiful species.
“Amur Leopards are one of the rarest species on the planet. It truly is such an exciting time as we haven’t had a cub for a little while now.
“The end goal is to be able to reintroduce more Amur Leopards back into protected areas of their native habitat in Russia and China.”
The sex of the cub is still unknown and it will be kept out of the view of the public areas for some time yet.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park’s 6,000 square metre Leopard Heights sanctuary is the largest reserve in Europe with an 8-metre-tall tower and 100 square metre viewing platform.
The park has already successfully bred two cubs in 2015 - one is now in France while the other Anadyr has been part of the successful breeding programme at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado.
Kristen, originally from Czechoslovakia, arrived at Yorkshire Wildlife Park in December after a 70-mile journey from Twycross Zoo, in Leicestershire.
She replaced the park’s previous Amur Leopard, Freya, who was transferred to Ireland as part of the breeding programme.
After previously having two litters, the first in 2014 and the second in 2016, 11-year-old Kristen is now a grandmother, making her the perfect nurturing mother to her new offspring.
CEO John Minion added: “This Amur Leopard cub represents our commitment to the survival of this critically endangered species.
“We are not just preserving these incredible animals, we are giving them a chance to reclaim their place in the wild.
“When we constructed Leopard Heights here at the park, it was specifically designed as a breeding complex for these naturally shy animals, and it is just brilliant that all our hard efforts are reaping the rewards with this new cub.”
The WildLife Foundation charity, which is based at the park, has supported conservation efforts in Russia for Amur Leopard and Tiger, including the Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Aleeska.
The park, which is the UK’s No1 wildlife walkthrough adventure is home to some of the world’s most rare and beautiful species, including Giraffes, Black Rhinos, and the world’s largest group of Polar Bears.