BALTIMORE, MD-– The Maryland Zoo today welcomed Sofiya, an Amur leopard, one of the rarest cat species in the world. Sofiya is a 6-year-old Amur leopard born at the St Louis Zoological Park, in Missouri. Over the course of her life she lived at The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, before being moved to The Maryland Zoo in mid-November at the request of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). “She spent the last 30 days in quarantine and is doing very well,” said Carey Ricciardone, mammal collection and conservation manager. “She has moved to the leopard exhibit and we hope she decides to take her first steps outside soon. The December cold is perfect weather for an Amur leopard.”
The natural range of the Amur leopard previously encompassed the Amur River basin in the mountains of northeastern China and the Korean peninsula. Today, it survives only in one isolated population in the Russian Far East, although there may be a few individual in the Jilin Province of northeast China. “They are the most critically endangered leopard subspecies — it is estimated that there are less than 40 living in the wild,” continued Ricciardone. “We are very excited to be working with her and hope she brings an awareness about her species to our zoo visitors.” Amur leopards are noted for their particularly pale coat compared to most other subspecies, featuring large rosettes with unbroken rings and darkened centers.
The Amur leopard is a subspecies of leopard that the Maryland Zoo has not worked with in the past. “Due to their critically endangered status, we have decided to focus efforts on saving this amazing subspecies in our ongoing efforts to positively impact the conservation of leopards, lions and cheetahs,” stated Mike McClure, general curator. “There are less than 200 Amur leopards in zoos worldwide, and we hope to make a constructive contribution to the health and welfare of the population over time.”
About The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
Founded in 1876, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is the third oldest zoo in the United States and is internationally known for its contributions in conservation and research. More than 1,500 animals are represented in the Zoo’s varied natural habitat exhibits in areas such as Polar Bear Watch, the Maryland Wilderness, African Journey and the award-winning Children’s Zoo. Situated in Druid Hill Park near downtown Baltimore, the Zoo is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. For more information, visit www.marylandzoo.org.