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Denver Zoo is thrilled to celebrate the birth of a critically endangered Amur (ah-Moor) leopard cub named Sochi, born December 3, 2013. The young male, named for the Russian city hosting this year's winter Olympics, is the tenth birth of his species at Denver Zoo since Amur leopards arrived in 1989, about 25 years ago. After spending time bonding with his mother, Dazma (Dazz-mah), Sochi can now be spotted by zoo guests inside the zoo's Feline Building.
Sochi is the second cub for Dazma and her mate, Hari-Kari (Harry Care-ee). Hari-Kari was born at El Paso Zoo in 2003 and arrived at Denver Zoo from there in 2005. Dazma was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2001 before coming to Denver Zoo in 2004. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Amur leopards take their name from the Amur region in eastern Russia. Once found from South Korea to north of the China-Russia border, they are now nearly extinct in the wild due to poaching for fur, loss of habitat and trophy hunting. In fact, Amur leopards are considered the most endangered cats on the planet. Though there are differing reports about just how many of them remain in the wild, the largest estimation is less than 50 individuals, compared to 96 in North American zoos. In 1989, when Denver Zoo's first Amur leopard, Galax, arrived; there were still less than 50 in the wild and only 10 in North American zoos.
Amur leopards live further north than any other subspecies of leopard and have several adaptations for surviving in their cold, snowy climates. They have beautiful fur that is longer and paler than other leopards. In winter it can grow to nearly three inches long! In addition they have long legs to help them move through deep snow in search of prey. Amur leopards are also agile climbers and can leap 10 feet in the air. They can drag a kill up to three times their own weight into a tree to avoid competition from other predators.
Adult male Amur leopards can grow to weigh about 120 pounds and measure up to two-and-a half-feet tall at the shoulder and eight or nine-feet-long from head to tail. Among their tan to reddish brown bodies, they have spot patterns unlike any other leopards with large widely spaced black spots in the form of "rosettes" on the head, back, tail and legs.
Denver Zoo Welcomes Birth of Extremely Endangered Amur leopard cub "Sochi"