First birthday party at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo for Amur leopards
Two of the rarest of the big cats on earth will celebrate their first birthday at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo on Saturday, Jan. 25.
The Bridgeport zoo’s two Amur leopard cubs, Orion and Kallisto (Panthera pardus orientalis), were born Jan. 25, 2019, adding to the important species survival work being done at the AZA-accredited facility, according to a zoo news release. The male Amur leopard cub, Orion, and the melanistic (an extremely rare black color variant) female, Kallisto, were hand-reared by zoo staff.
The zoo will celebrate with a number of special activities throughout the day: At 9 a.m., first 100 guests through the gate receive free zoo calendar magnet; at 10 a.m., education talks begin at the leopard habitat; at noon, birthday enrichment offered to the cubs, designed to encourage exploration and play. Free cake and hot cocoa served to zoo guests; at 1 p.m., encore presentation of Fostering Felines Part II Lecture in the Research Station, supported with photos and video by Leopard Cub Care Specialists Bethany Thatcher and Chris Barker. The will be a 20 percent discount at Zoo Gift Shop offered all day.
Amur leopards are critically endangered, which means they face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild, with approximately 80 animals remaining there. There are approximately 200 in human care worldwide, with slightly more than 100 in Russia and Europe, and slightly fewer than 100 in the U.S. With such a small population, each Amur leopard born is extremely important to the survival of the species, the zoo said.
“Amur leopards are on the brink of extinction, so there’s every reason to celebrate Orion and Kallisto reaching their first birthdays as healthy young cubs,” Zoo Director Gregg Dancho said in the release. “The birth of these cubs brought two more precious Amur leopards to the population, which helps ensure the survival of these majestic animals for future generations.”
The cubs’ mother, Freya, resides in an adjacent habitat to the cubs.
About Amur leopards
A rare subspecies of leopard that has adapted to life in the temperate forests from Northeast China to the Korean peninsula and the Russian Far East, Amur leopards are often illegally hunted for their beautiful spotted fur. The Amur leopard is agile and fast, running at speeds up to 37 miles per hour. Males reach weights of 110 pounds and females up to 90 pounds.
They prey on sika, roe deer, and hare, but the Amur leopard has to compete with humans for these animals. They live for 10-15 years in the wild, and up to 20 years in human care. In the wild, Amur leopards make their home in the Amur-Heilong, a region that contains one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world, vast steppe grasslands and the unbroken taiga biome.