Amur Leopard Explores New Habitat at San Diego Zoo Asian Leopard Exhibit Expands Barlin-Kahn Family Panda Trek

Two Amur and one snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo have been acclimating to their new exhibits for the last week in preparation for the expansion of The Barlin-Kahn Family Panda Trek area of the Zoo. The 16,500-square-foot habitat includes 5,500 square feet of multi-level living space with rock outcroppings and slopes with felled trees to encourage climbing, foraging and other natural behaviors. Two other snow leopards will be moved to the new habitat next week.

The habitat has four separate exhibits with enclosed, overhead passageways above the visitor walkway allowing the leopards to cross between exhibits. The ability to change the passageways and access for the cats is another element of enrichment for the animals. The Amur leopards and snow leopards will live separately but will have opportunities to trade living areas.

“The overhead passageways are one of the exciting features of this exhibit,” said Todd Speis, senior keeper, San Diego Zoo. “This feature allows the cats to get up high, which is a unique way for the visitor to observe the cat, and it’s also a place a cat naturally wants to be—it wants to be high where it can see its whole territory.”

The San Diego Zoo has two Amur leopard brothers, and one male and two female snow leopards. Additional animals will be brought to the Zoo to create breeding pairs for both species of big cats in the future. With plans to breed both species, one of the four exhibits in the new habitat can be used as a nursery for a mother and her cubs, with a glass viewing area for guests.

More than 1,600 donors contributed the $3 million dollars needed to build the habitat designed specifically for large cats. This is one of the first steps in moving animals out of the Zoo’s aging exhibits which have gone through several upgrades over the years.

The Amur leopard is believed to have just 40 individuals left in its native habitat of southern Russia and northern China. There are only 300 Amur leopards in zoos around the world, making it the most critically endangered big cat on the planet. The home range of snow leopards is the cold, rugged mountains of central Asia. It is estimated that just 7,000 snow leopards exist in the wild.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts representing both plants and animals at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on June 4, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo