HomeOutdoorsNewsAmur Leopard Twin Cubs Spark ‘Hope’ for Critically Endangered Species

Amur Leopard Twin Cubs Spark ‘Hope’ for Critically Endangered Species

by Caitlin Berard
Amur Leopard Cub
(Photo by AlanJeffery via Getty Images)

The San Diego Zoo and conservationists worldwide recently experienced a monumental day worth celebrating, as the zoo welcomed twin Amur leopards, adding two individuals to a critically endangered population.

One of the world’s rarest cats, fewer than 300 Amur leopards remain in the world. As such, the twin birth was “especially significant” to the species. For Gaylene Thomas, a wildlife care manager at the San Diego Zoo, the twins’ birth was “an emotional experience,” as every leopard born takes the species one step further from extinction.

“Witnessing the birth of Amur leopards is always an emotional experience,” Thomas said in a statement. “There are so few of them left in their native habitat that every birth carries so much weight — and every living individual promises a glimmer of hope.”

The zoo announced the birth on March 28, but Satka, the mama Amur leopard, gave birth several weeks prior. In the early days of life, wildlife officials give new mothers plenty of privacy with their newborns for bonding and learning.

During this stretch of time, staff keep an eye on the cubs through a remote camera system only. This allows them to study the babies’ development without disrupting their special time with their mother.

When the babies are ready, the family emerges from their secluded birthing den into the main enclosure. It’s this exciting event that sparked the announcement Tuesday. Thus far, researchers know little about the baby Amur leopards. As such, they remain nameless. That will soon change, however, with their first doctor’s appointment.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the progress made by the cubs,” Thomas gushed. “They have grown so much, and have already started showcasing their unique personalities. The cubs will get their first full veterinary exam soon, and we will know more, including their sex.”

Amur Leopards Among Dozens of Endangered Species Under the Care of Wildlife Alliance

With the birth of the twins, Sitka and her mate, Oskar, are now the proud parents of six. They had their first cubs, two females, in 2018. Two years later, Sitka gave birth to two more cubs, this time two males.

Due to their shockingly low numbers, Amur leopards are categorized as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Rest List of Threatened Species. Through the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, wildlife officials hope to slowly combat this extreme loss.

Since its inception, the SDZWA has worked diligently to reintroduce endangered species to their native habitats. Thus far, they have achieved this goal with 44 species.

As we speak, close to 100 institutions worldwide are caring for over 200 Amur leopards in a concerted conservation effort. These continued efforts give conservationists such as Dr. Nadine Lamberski, SDZWA’s wildlife health officer, hope for the future of endangered species.

“The good news is, we see positive results,” she said. “For example, through the efforts of numerous on-the-ground conservation organizations and zoological institutions, the Amur leopard population has recently increased by more than 50 percent.”

“This is a monumental achievement, proving that conservation works and our vision to build a world where all life thrives can be realized. We only need to maintain the course, and ultimately, we will succeed.”