Critically endangered Amur leopard cubs born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Colorado Springs’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo welcomed a pair of Amur leopard cubs last Wednesday, adding to the population of one of the most endangered species in the world.

Amur leopards have been on the list of critically endangered animals since 1996 and are the rarest of big cat species, with only 100 or so estimated to be still alive, primarily in eastern Russia and western China, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The births are the first in nearly 20 years of the leopards at the zoo, which is a participant in the Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan, according to a press release. The Denver Zoo also saw an Amur cub named Sochi born in 2013.

Cubs are born blind and are extremely fragile in the first weeks and months of their lives, but the two Colorado natives came out at an average weight of two pounds and showed a quick instinct to nurse from their mother, Anya, said Rebecca Zwicker, animal care manager in Asian Highlands at the CMZoo.

“It always amazes me when a first-time mom embraces the role as naturally as Anya has,” said Zwicker. “She’s a patient and attentive mom. She knows where those babies are at all times. There’s a lot of cuddling, grooming, nursing and cleaning going on, and we’re seeing Anya take time to groom and care for herself, which is equally important.”

A remote camera monitors Anya’s den and the plan is to leave the new family alone for the first eight weeks. The father, Anadyr, won’t have an active parenting role for the cubs, which is typical for Amur leopards.

The zoo has a tradition of waiting 30 days to name a baby and the public will be informed when they are big enough to be made available for guests to visit them in the Asian Highlands exhibit.

The birth of the cubs came shortly after the CMZoo lost a popular and long-time resident, a female African elephant named Malaika.

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