Baby Leopard Cubs

24 July 2014, 06:00 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

Twycross Zoo has announced the birth of not one, but two, of the world's rarest big cats, Amur leopards.

Capital's been told the arrival of the two cubs represents a significant step forward in ensuring the survival of this species on the brink of extinction in the wild. 

Experts estimate that the number of Amur leopards in the wild consists of less than 50 individuals, making the species vulnerable to extinction. Human-animal conflict in the leopard's small range in China and south eastern Russia, including poaching, illegal logging, forest clearance and land development, as well as the risks associated with disease and in-breeding in such a small population, are all factors which threaten the long-term survival of the species. 

Captive breeding programmes in zoos like Twycross are critical to the survival of endangered species. 

Acting like modern online dating, data collected on all captive Amur leopards from zoos across Europe are looked at to find suitable breeding matches. 

Dr Charlotte Macdonald, Head of Life Sciences at Twycross Zoo said: ''We are delighted with the birth of two rare Amur leopard cubs at Twycross Zoo. We are hopeful that these UK-born babies will one day be part of wider conservation plans for the reintroduction of the species to the wild. Although animals are best conserved in the wild, and it's unlikely that any reintroduction will take place for several more years, captive-bred cubs such as these could help save the Amur leopard from disappearing forever.''