Zoo Debrecen has a long-awaited and extraordinary new arrival to share for the upcoming Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival as it welcomed a beautiful female North Chinese leopard from Zoo Thoiry (France) on August 31 under a European Ex Situ Program (EAZA EEP). Named Jilin, the young newcomer started exploring her new enclosure shortly after her arrival and will be exhibited to visitors starting this Saturday, the day of the Moon Festival. Hopefully she and the Zoo’s male called Coolio will accept each other as mates and get to contribute to the survival of this rare and threatened subspecies.
Zoo Debrecen has been a safe haven for North Chinese leopards since 2004 as Hungary’s only zoo with breeding success to date; its late pair, Szépfiú (“Pretty Boy”) and Tschunja, contributed to the growth of the European zoo population four times and, interestingly, Coolio was actually fathered by the very first North Chinese leopard born in Debrecen, who started his own family in Ree Park Safari (Denmark).
North Chinese leopards (Panthera pardus japonensis) are one of the northernmost leopard subspecies, with a considerably larger size and denser fur than their tropical cousins. They primarily feed on larger prey such as wild boar and deer, but occasionally on birds and rodents as well. Except for their breeding season in winter and maternal care for the young, they are solitary and highly territorial.
Although they have the largest distribution out of all big cat species spanning from most of Africa to South and East Asia, leopards now face extinction due to habitat fragmentation and poaching, hence their Vulnerable status in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. Certain subspecies are at an even greater risk; North Chinese leopards have dwindled down to an estimate of less than 500 individuals in the wild while zoos around the globe are home to a total conservation population of 51, most of them held in Europe, in order to try save them.
Dr. Gergely Sándor Nagy
CEO, Zoo Debrecen