San Diego Zoo building new exhibit for Asian leopards
The San Diego Zoo this week began construction of a new habitat area for critically endangered Asian leopards.
The area, set for completion by next Memorial Day, will accomodate the zoo's two male Amur leopards and two female snow leopards. The two species do not mix and will be separated.
Once the 16,500-square-foot space is completed, the zoo will consider bringing leopards from other locations for a breeding program with the Amur and snow leopards. A breeding program is underway for lions and tigers at the zoo's Safari Park and is being planned for jaguars at the zoo.
Included in the exhibit will be a space for mothers and newborns, with a glass viewing area for guests, zoo officials said.
More than 1,000 donors contributed $3 million for construction of the large-cat exhibit. The animals are currently in smaller spaces that have been upgraded.
The Amur leopard is considered the most endangered big cat in the world, with only 40 still roaming southern Russia and northern China.
An estimated 7,000 snow leopards remain in the mountains of central Asia, including Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Mongolia, Tibet and Bhutan. The snow leopard is the national heritage animal of Pakistan.