Whenever you hear someone speak of the amur leopard, the topic of conversation often revolves around poaching, habitat fragmentation and of course, endangerment. And is it surprising? As few as 70 adult amur leopards are said to be remaining in the wild with this cat being labelled as potentially the rarest big cat on the planet.
Native to the borders of the Russian Far East and North East China, this spotted beauty is known for its thick winter coat, growing hairs that can reach up to 7cm long, which has made this animal a popular choice in the poaching industry, along with the roe, red and musk deer, which the amur leopard hunts for food. However as of recent, more news has been spreading about the amur leopard, but in this case, the news isn’t so glum.
Everyone love babies!
We humans love a baby. Whether it’s our own, a relative or in this case… something that could grow up to eat us. On Saturday 25th June, Marwell Zoological Park announced an exciting birth of not one, but two amur leopard cubs who have in this last two weeks taken their first steps out into the public eye. Although these cubs are yet to be given names, plans for their futures are already being made with huge amounts of pressure being put on these little bundles of fluff.
The decrease in amur leopard’s have resulted in the Chinese Government offering their support to wildlife conservation across China after the amur leopard was made a priority by experts, which has resulted in identifying and protecting areas that are high in numbers of prey for leopards. However, are the births of these new cubs really as happy as they seem? Though solitary animals in the wild, amur leopards are said to live with their mother from 12-18 months before leaving to live on their own and have offspring between 2-3 years. But does living in captivity override this natural instinct?
It is proven that many animals in captivity are often reported to suffer separation anxiety when their offspring are moved on to take part in conservation breeding programmes around the world. Although this act is carried out to prevent inbreeding and improve gene pools, do the effects of separating mother and child affect the welfare of these animals and further more, their ability to reproduce in the future? This has typically been seen across orcas in captivity when mothers have been reported to display behaviours such as grief when their babies have been taken from them at ages as old as 24 months. Although orcas are known as sociable animals in the wild, living in pods of up to 30 individuals, is it guarenteed that other species such as the amur leopard won’t experience these emotions as well?
Having visited Marwell Zoo endless amounts of time as both a child and adult, the amur leopard is forever seen pacing alone in its enclosure, a common display of boredom and/or distress. Therefore, it’s not rocket science to understand that the birth of cubs will only provide this animal with an eternal sense of purpose, hope and to a certain extent, entertainment too, which will only be taken away when these new cubs are deported to play their part in the endangered species breeding programme. So it is now that I conclude this article with a question. Do the potential benefits that these cubs may contribute to the survival of their species outweigh the pain of a probable heartbroken mother?
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