The San Diego Zoo announced the birth of rare Twin Amur Leopard cubs this week, which increases this rare cat’s estimated worldwide population of fewer than 300 by two.
The pair of cubs have emerged from their quiet birthing den with their mother, Satka, allowing Zoo guests a chance to get their first glimpse of the tiny cats, according to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. The cubs are yet to be named.
“Witnessing the birth of Amur leopards is always an emotional experience,” said Gaylene Thomas, wildlife care manager at the San Diego Zoo in a press release. “There are so few of them left in their native habitat that every birth carries so much weight—and every living individual promises a glimmer of hope.”
Wildlife care specialists have closely monitored the cubs through a remote camera system, analyzed their behaviors, and documented their development. Officials say this approach allowed the cubs to bond and learn from their mother.
According to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the Amur leopards are categorized as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species because of the tremendous habitat loss and poaching for their coats.
The large cats were once numerous throughout northeastern China, Russia, and the Korean peninsula. There are currently fewer than 300 Amur Leopards left on earth, and fewer than 100 remain in their historic range in the primary region of the Russian Far East.
More than 94 institutions are caring for over 220 leopards that participate in the Global Species Management Program, an international conservation effort in which scientists work to increase regional wildlife populations.
“San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s work in Asia is essential for conserving endangered species that call that region home,” said Dr. Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation, and wildlife health officer for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance in a press release. “The good news is, we see positive results. For example, through the efforts of numerous on-the-ground conservation organizations and zoological institutions, the Amur leopard population has recently increased by more than 50 percent. This is a monumental achievement, proving that conservation works and our vision to build a world where all life thrives can be realized. We only need to maintain the course, and ultimately, we will succeed.”