DENVER (KDVR) — The Amur leopard is a critically endangered species, no cubs had been born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in nearly 20 years until this week.
Just three days after Mother’s Day, Anya, a 9-year-old Amur leopard, gave birth to two healthy cubs which the zoo said “have no idea how much they have just contributed to their species’ future.”
With an estimated population of less than 100 in the wild, the Amur leopard is the most endangered subspecies, according to the WildCats Conservation Alliance. The zoo said they are the rarest big cat species on the planet, and the babies are “hope for the future of their species.”
The 2-pound cubs seem to enjoy snuggling, nursing and wriggling, the zoo said.
Anya and the cubs’ father, 7-year-old Anadyr, met in 2017 and have been spending time together ever since. In 2019, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan chose them as a breeding pair, which the zoo said was a “risky breeding recommendation.”
Today, the days-old cubs are bonding well, according to CMZoo. It said the first cub quickly began nursing after birth, which helped Anya’s maternal instincts take over while she delivered the second cub.
“Imagine nursing your first baby while having contractions for your second,” animal care manager Rebecca Zwicker said. “I think Anya is absolutely incredible. She looks confident and comfortable with the cubs, and we’re elated for her and her babies.”
First-time mother Anya will continue to be the only one to be physically present with the cubs for at least eight weeks, but the zoo has cameras in the family’s den to watch them grow.