Rare Amur leopard exhibit offers enhanced viewing area at Beardsley Zoo

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo debuted its newest exhibit renovation this summer: a large viewing window and sheltered wooden platform for viewing the rarest big cats in the world, the Amur leopard. Amur leopards are critically endangered, with fewer than 30 animals left in the wild (66 fewer than is needed to ensure the survival of the species) and only 176 in captivity worldwide. Connecticut’s Only Zoo is constantly seeking to improve both the animals’ living spaces and the human guest experience, prompting the addition of a large viewing window at the Amur Leopard exhibit.

“We finished our new viewing window in June and are thrilled to be able to offer an even better opportunity to view our Amur leopards,” explained Gregg Dancho, zoo director. “They are such beautiful animals, and critically endangered in the wild. We are proud to be a participant in the Amur leopard Species Survival Plan.”

The Zoo is home to a pair of Amur leopards: a female, Freya, born in 2012, and a male Sochi, born in 2013. Their exhibit features rock outcroppings that enable the leopards to explore their surroundings at ground level. It also includes areas as high as 10 feet off the ground, to enable them to view their domain from a different level. Amur leopards have been known to leap more than 10 feet vertically, so there is plenty of room to stretch their legs. Visitors may visit the leopard exhibit from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, next to the lynx exhibit.

“Given how rare these cats are, we are very proud to have them with us,” said Dancho. “It’s a real testament to our Zoo’s strong reputation for working to protect endangered species and to educate our guests about them. It’s an important part of our mission and we’re justifiably proud of that.”

A rare subspecies of leopard that has adapted to life in the temperate forests from Northeast China to the Korean peninsula, they are often illegally hunted for their beautiful spotted fur. The Amur leopard is agile and fast, running at speeds up to 37 miles per hour. Males reach weights of 110 pounds and females up to 90 pounds. They prey on sika, roe deer, and hare, but the Amur leopard has to compete with humans for these animals. Some scientists have reported male Amur leopards remaining with the females after mating, and possibly even helping to rear the young. They live for 10-15 years in the wild, and up to 20 years in captivity.

Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adult admission (ages 12 & older) is $15, children (ages 3-11) is $12, and senior admission (62 and older) is $11. Children under 3 are free. Zoo members also are admitted free. Parking at the Zoo is free of charge. For more information about Connecticut’s only zoo, visit beardsleyzoo.com.