Lifestyle Pets Critically Endangered Amur Leopard Twins Born at the San Diego Zoo: 'A Glimmer of Hope' "There are so few of them left in their native habitat that every birth carries so much weight—and every living individual promises a glimmer of hope," said Gaylene Thomas with the zoo By Kimberlee Speakman Published on March 29, 2023 03:18 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance The San Diego Zoo is celebrating the birth of the Amur leopard cubs — one of the world's rarest cat species. According to a San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) release, fewer than 300 of these critically endangered big cats remain in the world, making this twin cub birth "especially significant." "Witnessing the birth of Amur leopards is always an emotional experience," said Gaylene Thomas, a wildlife care manager at the San Diego Zoo. "There are so few of them left in their native habitat that every birth carries so much weight — and every living individual promises a glimmer of hope." The California zoo announced the leopard births on March 28, and the cubs recently emerged from the birthing den they share with mother Sitka for the first time. The baby leopards were in their den for several weeks, according to the zoo, bonding and learning from their mother. Two 'Extremely Important' Critically Endangered Amur Leopard Cubs Born at Saint Louis Zoo Zoo staffers watched the cubs grow up through a remote camera system that allowed the animal caretakers to analyze the cubs' behaviors and document their development without interfering with bonding time. "We are absolutely thrilled with the progress made by the cubs," said Thomas. "They have grown so much, and have already started showcasing their unique personalities. The cubs will get their first full veterinary exam soon, and we will know more, including their sex." Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance The cute cub duo — not yet named — makes up the third Amur leopard litter born at the San Diego Zoo. Previously, Sitka and the zoo's male Amur leopard Oskar had two female cubs in 2018 and two male cubs born in 2020. These births were possible due to an initiative from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan, which assesses how to maintain the populations of threatened and endangered animals. RELATED Video: Nashville Zoo Welcomes Clouded Leopard Cub Twins — See Photos Amur leopards are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, according to SDZWA. The leopards' natural habitat is in the mountainous forests of eastern Russia and northern China, per National Geographic. A refuge area for the Amur leopard was created in 2012 along the Russian and Chinese border called the Land of the Leopard National Park, which helped populations in the region double over a decade. Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human-interest stories. "San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance's work in Asia is essential for conserving endangered species that call that region home," said Dr. Nadine Lamberski, the chief conservation and wildlife health officer for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. "The good news is, we see positive results. For example, through the efforts of numerous on-the-ground conservation organizations and zoological institutions, the Amur leopard population has recently increased by more than 50 percent. "This is a monumental achievement, proving that conservation works and our vision to build a world where all life thrives can be realized. We only need to maintain the course, and ultimately, we will succeed," they added.