The Moscow Zoo’s Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction saw two newborn cubs of the Far Eastern leopard. Their father, called Nikolai, was saved from poachers in the Primorye Territory back in 2015, and the mother, Akra, was born in captivity.
During the first health check, zoologists found out that both cubs are male and determined their weight: 4.5 kilogrammes as of today.
“We are very happy that we have managed to get healthy cubs from Nikolai the leopard. His cubs have high genetic value and significance for the European breading programme, in which our zoo takes an active part, because he comes from the wild. When the cubs grow up a bit, they will be sent to a leading zoo in another country. We hope that when they become adults they get their own cubs and hence help with the preservation and restoration of this rare subspecies,” said Svetlana Akulova, director of the Moscow Zoo.
Now Nikolai and Akra’s cubs are a little than a month older, they feel extremely well and are developing harmonically, getting braver and more curious with each approaching day. The little cubs are very active too, and their mother always keeps an eye on them. She licks them clean several times a day and takes them from the shelter into the open-air cage where they can play.
The youngsters are being fed by their mother still. They will begin to eat solids when they are three months old. At the moment their mother brings them pieces of meat but this is only so as the cubs can get to know its smell. In a month, they will pay a visit to the vet not only to get a health check but to be given their first vaccinations as well. Nikolai the leopard does not take part in the education process of the cubs. Like in the wild, the mother takes care of all that.
“Akra shows herself as a gentle and loving mother. For example, when the cubs were photographed for the first time, she threw herself on the cage trying to hide them from view at the same time a roar could be heard. After that episode zoo workers decided to start tip toeing around the place near the cage so that Akra would not have reasons to worry,” Svetlana Akulova added.
Nikolai, who was saved from a poacher’s trap, was brought to the Moscow Zoo reproduction centre in June 2016. He cannot be returned into the wild because of an injury he got when he was a cub: three toes are missing from his paw. This February, after a long period of rehabilitation, zoo workers introduced Nikolai to a young female called Akra brought from the Tallinn Zoo.
Svetlana Akulova added that people in Moscow will be able to see Nikolai the leopard’s family during special ecotours. The next one will take place on 27 July. In addition to this, visitors can come to the center in their personal cars on 27 July and 2 and 9 August. Details are available on the zoo’s official website.
Far Eastern leopards are a rare critically endangered species. The only population of about 60 leopards is located in Russia and China. The first leopards were brought to the reproduction centre in 1998, and the first cubs were born in 2005. Now there are five Far Eastern leopards besides Nikolai.
The Moscow Zoo has been taking part in preserving and breeding programmes for rare species in captivity for many years. Experts try to make the life and reproduction conditions for their animals as comfortable as possible. For example, cubs of Siberian lynx were born in May. They also participate in the European programme for breeding this rare species. Far Eastern lynxes live in the zoo’s old part, in the cat section.