On July 22, 2013, Beardsley Zoo, Connecticut’s only zoological park, announced the arrival of a female Amur leopard named Sofiya as their newest resident. The five year old cat’s newly remodeled habitat is located where the Andean bear was once exhibited.
The Amur leopard is a rare subspecies of the leopard and comes from the temperate forests found between Northeast China and the Korean peninsula. Since only 30 to 40 Amurs exist in their wild habitats, it is considered “critically endangered and in immediate danger of extinction” on all international, federal and regional levels. In captivity, there are only about 176 individuals worldwide.
The female Amur leopard can weigh as much as 90 pounds while the male weighs up to 100 pounds. It is an agile and fast moving cat reaching speeds of up to 37 miles per hour. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked in favor of its cousin the Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian. As a result, very little funding and research has gone into the Amur leopard’s survival. According to the website amurleopard.com, the main reasons for the Amur’s dire outlook include:
Habitat destruction caused by wildfires which burn unattended and out of control
Intensive logging and clear cutting
Elimination of its prey, hunting both legal and illegal (poaching) have all played a role in reducing the leopards to a fragment of its former habitat
The Amur leopard is also being poached for its beautiful coat and for its bones
Because the Amur leopard has the ability to leap as much as 10 feet into the air, Sofiya’s new home includes areas that will allow her to climb that high off the ground so she can view her surroundings. There are also numerous rock outcroppings on the ground so she can explore. According to Beardsley Zoo:
Visitors will be able to meet Sofiya between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily, in this new space located next to the lynx exhibit. The exhibit would not have been possible without the support of the City of Bridgeport, the Connecticut Zoological society, and through the generous donations of zoo patrons.
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