Leia - The Big Cat Sanctuary


Panthera Pardus Orientalis/Amur LeopardCritically Endangered

Interesting facts about Leia

  • Leia was born at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens
  • She arrived at The Big Cat Sanctuary in December 2022
  • She is a stunning leopard who we hope will become a breeding partner for Luka in the future
  • She settled really well at the Sanctuary, it only took a few weeks before she appeared to be paying attention to Luka
  • Leia is considerably smaller than Luka and is still quite cubby looking as she's very fluffy
  • It is hoped that Leia will have cubs in the future to contribute to the attributed breeding program helping to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population

Leia's story

Leia arrived at The Big Cat Sanctuary in December 2022 from Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. She was moved as part of the attributed co-ordinated breeding program which is crucial for this species being that it is the most endangered big cat on the planet.

When a new potential breeding partner arrives, the keeping team’s work begins, they have to observe the behaviours of potential breeding pairs of cats carefully before deciding when the time is right to mix them.

Compatibility is very important and the cats would never be mixed if the team are not confident that they would get along well and hopefully mate.

A successful mating would result in cubs after a gestation period of 100-110 days.

About Amur leopards

Amur leopard reintroduction is something that has been in planning stages for some years now.   The Amur leopard is the first ever big-cat carnivore, to be reintroduced to the wild using animals from the captive breeding programme.  But why is it necessary for these big cats, whose population is already rebounding in the wild?

The number of Amur leopards had remained at such critically low numbers for a number of decades, it was deemed necessary that a reintroduction to create a secondary insurance population should happen in order to secure their future in the wild.

A reintroduction plan was prepared by a number of Russian and international organisations including the Ministry of Natural Resources, Primorski Krai Administration, Moscow Zoo, Lazovsky Zapovednik, ZSL and WCS amongst others.

Given political support and the necessary funding, it is possible that in 1-2 years from now preparations in situ (building of breeding and holding facilities and other infrastructure) will have beun. This could possibly and very sadly suffer repercussions of the war which would hamper progress.

With continued and greater conservation efforts in both Russia and China, we would expect to see an increase in the current wild population in the future.

Estimated that around only 100-110 Amur leopards remain in the wild, surviving on a dedicated conservation area in Russia, west of Vladivostok-the Primorskii Krai; this is the world’s most endangered big cat. By using holistic conservation strategies and protecting areas of this illusive cat’s habitats the population almost doubled over around ten years. This is the species that has become viable for the first time for the reintroduction programme. Having grown so fast over a decade is incredible, but these wild populations would now benefit from any new dna which could be introduced by the arrival of a new individual who would be completely unrelated to those currently living in the wild. This is a perfect example of when the co-ordinated breeding programmes are put into action. When the process will truly service to help conserve a healthy population of this species in the wild.

Reaching speeds of 37 mph and able to leap 20 feet horizontally and 10 feet vertically they are formidable predators; giving a suffocating vice like grip to the throat.

Being strong climbers they take a kill up a tree to eat alone. The main prey species of the Amur leopard are roe and sika deer along with hares and badgers.

IUCN Red List Category Critically Endangered(CR)

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