An Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) gave birth to twin cubs at the Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, England. The cubs were born five weeks ago, but the zoo did not release any pictures or videos until today. The cubs, which have not yet been named, are just beginning to leave their den. The Zoo will set up a screen with live-streaming by next Wednesday, so visitors may watch the new family.
Amur leopards are a rare and endangered species; fewer than 70 survive in the wild along the border of Russia and China. They are believed to be the rarest big cat in the world. Zoo officials hope the cubs can be used in conservation plans to save the species. The cubs’ parents, Davidoff and Kristen, had produced another set of twins in 2014. A spokesman told the BBC that their fecundity makes them a “real asset” to the breeding program.
Twycross Zoo had celebrated the birth of a rare Diana monkey earlier this year. It had been the first Diana monkey born in the UK in five years and the first born at the Zoo in 29 years. Dian monkeys are from West Africa, and they are also endangered. Like the Amur leopard, the main threats facing them are habitat loss and overhunting.
Dr. Charlotte Macdonald, the Director of Life Sciences said, “We are excited about our new arrivals and it is great to see how their mother is confidently responding to the cubs now that she is a more experienced mum. The birth is fantastic news for the entire species as Twycross Zoo actively participates in the conservation of the critically endangered Amur leopards and captive-bred cubs such as these two could help ensure the long-term survival of the species.”