Amur leopards kept out of sight in huge Scottish enclosure in radical breeding programme | Nature | News


Two Amur leopards are being kept out of public view as part of a plan to save to endangered cats

Two Amur leopards are to be shielded from visitors’ attentions so they can behave naturally and produce the next generation of these critically endangered felines.

They are being provided with a huge, natural domain at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park where they can play a part in keeping their precious bloodline alive.

Fewer than 70 wild Amur leopards remain at large across 2,000 miles of Siberian forest on the Russian-Chinese border, adapting to the harsh winter conditions by growing a luxuriant spotted coats and having long legs that can prowl through deep snow.

Tragically, evolution has not saved them from the excesses of hunters desperate for their precious pelts and also body parts for use in traditional Oriental medicine.

The fight is on to save the subspecies, with the hope that by reintroducing captive bred youngster back into the wilds of Russia it will bolster the remnant population.

To help the breeding project, a new enclosure has been built at the Highland Wildlife Park, with the natural, cold-weather habitat replicating the leopards’ true environment, helping encourage them to mate and produce young ready for reintroduction back into the wild.

We could be in a position to return cats to Russia by mid to late 2018

Douglas Richardson, RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

In order to assist leopards Freddo and Arina behave naturally, their bespoke enclosure will be off limits to visitors to the zoo which is set in 200 acres within the Cairngorms National Park, near Kingussie.

Freddo was born in Tallinn Zoo, Estonia, in 2014, while Arina comes from Twycross Zoo in the Midlands. She is also three years old. Although they would make prized exhibits alongside the park’s other animals such as snow leopards, polar bears and Amur tigers, the decision has been taken to give them a low profile.

The wildlife park today announced its plans on the eve of Earth Day (April 22).

Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, said: “Earth Day is about celebrating environmental protection and conservation. At RZSS we have some very exciting conservation projects which are challenging traditional perceptions of zoos.


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