The Debrecen Zoo is happy to announce yet another rare and charismatic newcomer as, on June 24, they welcomed a male North Chinese leopard from Ree Park Safari, Denmark, under a European Endangered Species Program (EAZA EEP). Born in autumn 2018, the mighty big cat named Coolio has been gradually getting familiar with his new environment in the past few weeks, and now visitors can check him out in his enclosure during regular opening hours or Evening Walks on Friday nights.
Fun fact: Coolio’s father is actually the very first North Chinese leopard born at the Debrecen Zoo, transferred to Ebeltoft, Denmark, back in 2009 – so the newcomer has found his way back to the former home of his ancestors. Hopefully, he will soon be paired with a female and the institution will once again report on the birth of baby leopards in a couple years.
The total zoo population of this particular leopard subspecies currently includes 49 individuals in 22 zoos, out of which only 10 are home to breeding pairs.
The Debrecen Zoo, first zoo in Hungary outside the capital, has been a safe haven for North Chinese leopards since 2004 and it is the country’s only zoo where successful breeding has occurred. Their late breeding pair contributed to the growth of the European zoo population four times altogether and, since then, their cubs have started their own families.
North Chinese leopards (Panthera pardus japonensis) have the northernmost range out of all leopard subspecies, with a considerably larger size and denser fur than tropical counterparts.
They primarily feed on larger prey, such as wild boar and deer, but occasionally on birds and rodents as well. Except for their breeding season in winter and maternal care for the young, they are solitary and highly territorial.
Although leopards have one of the largest natural ranges out of all big cats, this wonderful species now faces extinction due to habitat fragmentation and poaching, with all subspecies included in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.