The Greenville Zoo is celebrating the birth of two Amur leopard cubs. Born February 10, the cubs are the second litter for Jade, the zoo’s nine-year-old female, and Nelkan, the zoo’s 13-year-old male. Mother and cubs are doing well and keepers are monitoring the family on a camera mounted in the leopards’ indoor holding area. The cubs have been nursing regularly and Jade spends most of her time in the den box with them, leaving occasionally to eat and stretch her legs out on exhibit. In order to ensure the development of a strong maternal-infant bond, keepers are limiting the amount of time they spend in the vicinity of the nest box. For the same reason, the veterinary staff will wait until the end of March to perform the first examination on the cubs. The cubs will not be old enough to be on exhibit for a few months.
In order to reduce Jade’s stress and facilitate the raising of her cubs, the zoo has relocated Nelkan to the Philadelphia Zoo temporarily. In the wild, males and females usually do not remain together after breeding occurs, so this separation is important for the health of Jade and the cubs. Once the cubs have grown, Nelkan will return to the Greenville Zoo.
The cubs’ birth is an important success for the Greenville Zoo’s conservation efforts and the Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Amur leopard is the most endangered cat, with only approximately 100 remaining in the wild. Extensive poaching and loss of habitat have led to a dramatic drop in numbers.
Amur leopards are a subspecies of leopard native to East Asia (eastern Russia, northeast China and possibly North Korea). They are adapted to live in colder climates, unlike most other leopard subspecies. In the wild, leopards live 10-12 years. In captivity, leopards can reach 20+ years.
Jade was transferred to the Greenville Zoo in 2011 from the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana. Nelkan was imported from Zoo Hoyerswerda in Berlin, Germany as part of the SSP and was transferred to the Greenville Zoo in 2016 specifically to breed with Jade. The pair’s first offspring, a male and a female born April 29, 2017, introduced a new bloodline into the North American population. They were later transferred to another facility to continue and expand the SSP’s cooperative breeding program.