Brookfield Zoo announced the birth of two male Amur leopard cubs on Thursday afternoon.
The cubs were born on April 18 to a 7-year-old mother, Lisa, and an 8-year-old father, Kasha. Now at 8 weeks old, the cubs are healthy at 8 and 9 pounds each. They’re bonding with their mother behind the scenes, and are expected to make their public debut in mid-July.
The arrival of two healthy cubs is huge for the preservation of the species. The World Wildlife Foundation categorizes Amur leopards as “critically endangered,” with fewer than 65 animals left in the wild, making it the rarest big cat on earth, though that population has tripled in the past 10 years. The species is dwindling due to deforestation and poaching of the leopards and their natural prey, according to the foundation.
The cubs are the result of the work done by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Amur leopard species survival plan. Through their efforts, there are now 82 Amur leopards in 42 accredited North American zoos.
“We are all very excited about the births of our two Amur leopard cubs,” said Amy Roberts, senior curator of mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society. “It is our hope that guests will not only enjoy seeing these very charismatic cubs exploring and playing in their outdoor habitat, but will also gain an appreciation for the species and learn why conservation efforts are so important for this leopard.”
Amur leopards are nocturnal, and are known for their keen senses of hearing, vision and smell, the zoo said.
A native of southeastern Russia, the Amur leopard is able to survive the scorching summers and frigid winters of the temperate forests of the Russian Far East. Like other leopards, the Amur leopard is built for speed and can run up to 37 miles per hour. These fierce predators can jump up to 10 feet high, and leap up to 19 feet horizontally.
Contributing: Jane Recker