Last Thursday, a rare Amur leopard cub was born at the Santa Barbara Zoo, marking the first Amur leopard birth at the facility in over two decades.
Ajax, the cub’s mother and the most genetically valuable female Amur leopard in North America, welcomed her first cub, a healthy 517-gram female named Marta.
Marta Holsman Babson and Henrietta Holsman Fore, Premier Foster Feeder sponsors, chose the name for the cub, which is expected to contribute significantly to the genetics of Amur leopards in captivity.
Jennifer Zacharias, a spokesperson for the zoo, noted the importance of Marta’s birth for preserving the species.
Marta and Ajax are bonding in their den, out of public view, after a brief separation when caretakers observed a lack of nursing in the first 12 hours.
Following their reunion, Dr. Julie Barnes, Vice President of Animal Care and Health at the zoo, confirmed that Ajax began nursing Marta and exhibited good maternal behavior. The newborn is strong and healthy, according to Barnes.
The initial week of a cub’s life is crucial for survival, and Barnes emphasized the importance of allowing the mother and cub to bond while being monitored via video. The pair will remain secluded from the public for several months as they establish their bond.
Kasha, the cub’s father, will remain visible in the exhibit. When Marta is deemed healthy, Ajax and Kasha will share the responsibility of caring for her in the show.
Zacharias explained that separating Ajax and the cub from Kasha is vital for their safety, as males and females typically do not cohabit after mating in the wild.
Amur leopards are the world’s most endangered big cats, with less than 100 remaining in the wild. The Santa Barbara Zoo has been striving to breed Amur leopards for years, with Kasha’s arrival in March 2020 as part of that effort.
The zoo will share viewing information as it becomes available, and the public is encouraged to follow the zoo’s social media channels for regular updates on Marta and Ajax.
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