The Chicago Zoological Society (C.Z.S.) announced on Thursday, April 30, A.D. 2020 that an Amur leopard cub had been born at Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois on Tuesday, March 3, A.D. 2020 and he had been named. The male cub, named Sasha, remains behind the scenes with his mother, Lisa. The right to name the cub was one of the items auctioned off at the C.Z.S.’s Virtu-Whirl fundraiser, which the C.Z.S. held the fourth week of April. Members of the C.Z.S.’s Women’s Board won the bid to name the now-two-month-old cub.
“The Whirl,” as I explained in “Chicagoland Park, Forest Preserve, and Zoo Closures,” is the C.Z.S.’s largest annual fundraiser gala. It is presented by the C.Z.S.’s Women’s Board and Board of Trustees. This year, the event was called the “Rain Forests of the Virtu-Whirl,” and instead of being a gala it was an auction held from Thursday, April 23, A.D. 2020 to Saturday, April 25, A.D. 2020. The money raised for the C.Z.S. goes not only toward feeding and caring for the animals at Brookfield Zoo, but also to pay for conservation, education, and research programs. The C.Z.S. operates the Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois on property that belongs to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: This is Sasha, a male Amur leopard cub born at Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Illinois on Tuesday, March 3, A.D. 2020.
The C.Z.S. placed a video camera in an animal-proof box, which drew Sasha’s interest. The C.Z.S. decided to share playful footage of him on its Website and Brookfield Zoo’s Facebook page.
Sasha’s father, Kasha, is now at the Santa Barbara Zoo. This is the third litter for nine-year-old mates Lisa and Kasha. Young Sasha is the fourth cub born to Kasha and Lisa. The first-born cub was Temur (pronounced Tee-moor) in 2016. Twin brothers Jilin (pronounced Gee-lin) and Samson were born in 2018.
Credit: Chicago Zoological Society Caption: Anne, the lead animal care special for large carnivores, shows off Samson the Amur leopard. She explains that his father, Kasha, is now at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Samson’s twin brother, Jilin, is at the Miami Zoo. Their elder brother, Temur, is at the Central Florida Zoo. Samson weighs over 100 pounds. He is about six feet long with a three-foot-long-tail, meaning the tail is equal in length to the rest of the body. Amur leopards can run up to thirty-seven miles per hour. They can jump ten feet straight up in the air and leap nineteen feet horizontally. That is why the outdoor habitat is covered in mesh. The same is true of the snow leopard habitat.
The pairing of Kasha and Lisa was based on a recommendation of the Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (S.S.P.). As with all Species Survival Plans, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (A.Z.A.) administers the Amur Leopard S.S.P.
A Species Survival Plans is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in A.Z.A.-accredited North American zoos and aquariums. The C.Z.S. explained, “Each plan manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.”
A.Z.A.-accredited zoos shift animals around between each other to prevent in-breeding. When one zoo has an individual animal that has reached sexual maturity, that zoo will either send that animal to another zoo with a suitable mate or receive that suitable mate.
The Amur leopard is a leopard subspecies that is a critically endangered species. There are less than sixty-five of them left in the wild. Threats to the species include poaching (illegal hunting), retribution hunting (which means hunting one down after it has killed a domesticated animal), loss of habitat due to logging and real estate development, and loss of prey. Their entire estimated range is about 965 square miles. Today, they are only found in a single isolated population in Primorye (Primorsky Krai) in the Russian Far East, although there may be a handful in the Jilin Province of northeastern China.
The C.Z.S. stated, “They are the northernmost subspecies of leopard in the world and are often mistaken for snow leopards. Amur leopards live in temperate forests with cold winters and hot summers, and typically rest in trees and dense vegetation or among the rocks during the day.”
Founded in 1920 and chartered in 1921, the C.Z.S. brought to life the vision of Edith Rockefeller McCormick (1872-1932) to give Chicago a zoo without bars modeled on the Tierpark Hagenbeck, known in English as the Hagenbeck Animal Park, a privately-owned zoo in Hamburg founded in 1907 by Carl Hagenback, Junior (1844-1913). The Brookfield Zoo opened in 1934, during the second year of Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34).
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