If you’ve visited the Central Florida Zoo recently, you might have noticed a familiar face is missing. Our male Amur leopard, Temur, has been moved off exhibit.
While we will miss sharing Temur with his legion of fans every day, we’re extremely excited about what this means for the future of Temur’s species and our Zoo! The recent move, which was carefully orchestrated under the supervision of our knowledgeable Keepers, marks the start of the habitat expansion project we’ve had in the works for several months.
Temur now resides in an enclosure adjacent to Jilin, our female Amur leopard, behind the scenes. This is the first step in the slow dance that will be their formal introduction and, if things go well, the opportunity to breed and produce offspring that will help sustain this critically endangered species.
With less than 200 remaining in the world, Amur leopards are the most highly endangered of all the big cats. All the remaining Amur leopards in the wild live near the China-Russia border, and with their limited population, a single disease outbreak could jeopardize the species’ survival.
The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) is an organization that accredits and regulates zoos and aquariums, and it has the most rigorous requirements of any accrediting body for institutions that hold wild animals. Out of more than 3,000 institutions holding animals, less than 250 are accredited by the AZA. The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens has been continuously accredited by AZA since 1986.
Through the AZA, the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens participates in more than 30 Species Survival Plans (SSPs) designed to keep a genetically diverse population of threatened and endangered species in accredited zoos and aquariums so that if the wild population became too small or was eliminated, members of the AZA population could be introduced into their natural habitat to help repopulate the species. Thus, a successful pairing of our Amur leopards, Temur and Jilin, resulting in cubs would be a major conservation win.
In the meantime, we have been working hard with our exhibit designers and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to finalize a habitat design that will meet all regulations and be a place where Temur, Jilin and any potential cubs can safely and happily call home. We hope to soon begin the construction process.
We are also continuing to move forward in the process of introducing Temur and Jilin.
Conservation is the bedrock of our mission here at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, and projects like this are fundamental to furthering that mission. We would be remiss if we didn’t thank all of the businesses and individuals who helped us raise more than $300,000 last year to make this project possible.
Because of your support, we have the chance to potentially make a big difference in the survival of this species and the education of more people about what makes it so special. We hope all of you in Central Florida will have a front-row seat to that with this new habitat—and hopefully this new leopard family.
Watch our blog and social media channels as we continue to keep you updated throughout this process. And, click here if you want to donate to help us continue our conservation efforts at the Central Florida Zoo.