Two 'Extremely Important' Critically Endangered Amur Leopard Cubs Born at Saint Louis Zoo

Amur leopard cubs Anya and Irina are the first of their species to be born at the Missouri zoo since 2010

Amur leopard cub veterinary exam
Photo: Victor Alm Saint Louis Zoo

It's a massive milestone for Amur leopards around the world!

On May 19, the Saint Louis Zoo announced that the facility welcomed two Amur leopard cubs on April 21. The little leopards are the first cubs of their species born at the zoo since 2010, and the duo has already made an enormous difference.

According to the Missouri zoo's release, Amur leopards are a critically endangered species and are considered one of the most endangered cats in the world.

After the birth of the leopard twins, the zoo carnivore care team named the two female cubs, Anya and Irina. This is the first litter for mother Dorothy — nicknamed Dot — and father Samson, both age four.

Jackie McGarrahan/Saint Louis Zoo

Per the zoo's release, Dorothy and her tiny cubs are "doing well and will remain in their private, indoor maternity den inside Big Cat Country for the next few months to allow time for the cubs to grow large enough to safely navigate all of the obstacles in the outdoor habitat."

While Dorothy and the girls bond backstage, zoo guests can still visit Samson at the Amur leopard exhibit in Big Cat Country.

"Dot is an excellent mother. It's exciting to see this first-time mom providing great care to her cubs," Steve Bircher of Saint Louis Zoo said in a statement. "There are so few of these rare big cats left in the world and each birth is extremely important for the survival of the species."

The Saint Louis Zoo also shared the baby news on social media with a video of Dorothy and her two babies. "Seen in this video is Dot, Anya, and Irina in their private maternity den!" the zoo wrote in the caption of the birth announcement.

The first few months of life are critical for newborn leopards, so the animal care team at the zoo is closely monitoring the family.

On May 5, at two weeks old, the cubs had their first wellness exams, where they were briefly examined and weighed. Each cub weighed nearly 2.5 pounds at that time, which is normal for their age, according to zoo veterinarians. Adult Amur leopards can weigh between 60 and 125 pounds.

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Amur leopard and cubs
Victor Alm Saint Louis Zoo

Dot and Samson, who were both moved to the Saint Louis Zoo in the past two years, were paired on a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan, a program responsible for maintaining a genetically healthy population of Amur leopards in North American zoos.

There have been four other cubs in three litters born at the Saint Louis Zoo since 1991, Anya and Irina are the first since 2010.

Fewer than 100 Amur leopards remain in their native habitat in eastern Russia.

"There are more Amur leopards in human care than exist in the wild," said Bircher. "In all, the population of Amur leopards in zoos all around the world numbers just about 300 individuals. Without the conservation effort of zoos, this species could go extinct, due to loss of genetic diversity and other threats to its survival in the wild, including habitat loss due to logging activities, human encroachment and poaching."

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