A Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium leopard gave birth to a new Amur cub last week, zoo officials announced Tuesday.
The pair are resting away from zoogoers in a private nesting den monitored by cameras and zoo physicians, spokesperson Tracy Gray said. This is the first successful birth for Candy, the cub's 12-year-old mother.
“When we spotted the tiny cub, everyone gave a huge sigh of relief,” said Ginger Sturgeon, the zoo's director of animal health. “We are pleased that Candy is being attentive to her cub. She is positioning the cub around her, nuzzling it and encouraging it to nurse. All very good signs for a first-time mother. The cat is active and nursing.”
Candy had a history of miscarriages and a stillbirth, likely caused by a lack of sufficient progesterone development needed to sustain the pregnancy, Sturgeon said. Her team reached out to Bill Swanson and his team at the Cincinnati Zoo's Center of Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife.
Amur leopards are endangered; only about 70 remain in the wild, according to Barbara Baker, zoo president and CEO.
“This tiny creature that is barely able to move around is having a major impact on the Amur leopard population,” Baker said. "A strong zoo population is the first step toward protecting this magnificent animal from extinction.”
Candy's birth marks the first introduction of her bloodline into the North American Amur leopard population.
The cub will undergo its first exam at six weeks, when doctors will be able to determine gender. By three months, the cub will begin eating solid food, be more curious and follow mom outside of the den.