Two new residents of Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo are the Amur leopard cubs born there in January.
Less than 100 Amur leopards remain in the wild in eastern Russia and northern China, near the Korean peninsula. They are considered critically endangered, meaning they could soon become extinct in the wild.
“They are the most endangered large cat on the planet,” said Beardsley Zoo director Gregg Dancho, noting about 200 Amur leopards are now under human care worldwide.
One of the Beardsley Zoo's cubs is melanistic, a rare condition where the body produces an excess of black pigment, the opposite of albinism.
The zoo's adult male and female Amur leopards produced the cubs as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan (SSP).
On a recent school vacation day, dozens of families lined up to look at the adult Amur leopards. The cubs, named Kallisto and Orion, will be available for viewing soon.
Spring is a busy time at the zoo, as it prepares for the warm-weather season while pursuing multiple projects to expand and modernize its offerings.
The nonprofit zoo in Bridgeport has more than 300 animals on 33 acres, and attracts about 260,000 visitors a year. It specializes in South and North American species but also is known for its Amur tigers, Amur leopards and red pandas.
Amur tigers, also called Siberian tigers, come from eastern Asia and are critically endangered. Red pandas live in the Himalayan Mountain region of Asia and are classified as endangered. The zoo features many endangered and threatened species.
Some other animals at the zoo include ocelots, Andean condors, red wolves, giant anteaters, golden lion tamarins, howler monkeys, pygmy marmosets, rheas, alligators, bison, and unique birds and snakes.
A new spider monkey habitat is now under construction and is expected to open in June. The zoo expects to house up to four spider monkeys at first, with the potential to begin a breeding colony to produce multiple offspring.