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Santa Barbara Zoo welcomes new leopard

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 22:04:07-04

The Santa Barbara Zoo is welcoming a new male Amur leopard named Kasha.

He is nine and a half years old and arrived to the zoo in March just before the closure. Kasha is now being introduced to the zoo's female leopard and his potential mate, Ajax.

The two leopards have a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Kasha came from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago where he sired three litters. He was born in Le Parc des Felins in Nesles, France.

Animal keepers say Kasha is calm, smart and careful.

Ajax is 6 years old and arrived to the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2016 from Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, England. The Santa Barbara Zoo says Ajax has genetics that are unrepresented in the United States and will play an important role in diversifying the gene pool of Amur leopards in North America.

Ajax's former mate, Wyatt, was transferred to Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in Indiana after efforts to breed the pair were unsuccessful.

Kasha and Ajax are rotating time spent in their enclosure so that the two can learn each other's scent. Due to the rotation, visitors may not see Kasha on exhibit depending on the day.

Amur leopards are the most endangered big cats in the world, historically spanning the Korean Peninsula into northeast China's Jilin and Heilongjiang Provinces. They also roamed the Russian Far East and Amur River basin.

Under 100 Amur leopards are estimated to remain in the wild. The species is threatened by poaching, forest fires, development and inbreeding. About 200 are in captivity and part of managed breeding programs in zoos across North America, Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union.

Online reservations are available for those wishing to visit the Santa Barbara Zoo. It is open with limited capacity and restrictions.