Pair of endangered Sri Lankan leopards born at Banham Zoo
- Credit: Archant
The team at Banham Zoo is celebrating the arrival of two tiny Sri Lankan leopard cubs.
Sariska, their mother, gave birth to the pair on September 12 - the first big cats of their subspecies to be born at the Norfolk zoo in about 10 years.
Mike Woolham, the zoo's animal manager, hailed the birth of the endangered animals, of which fewer than 1,000 survive in the wild.
Mr Woolham said: 'It's very exciting for the zoo. Sariska has so far been a super mother - very attentive and protective. I'm sure the cubs are going to grow up to be very healthy.'
Members of the zoo's team were able to watch the birth thanks to CCTV cameras set up in a special birthing enclosure, which includes a secluded, dark spot where Sariska is still spending much of her time with the cubs.
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But she has already taken them out into the view of the public.
Mr Woolham said: 'She does bring them out into the enclosure and in coming weeks we expect to see them more and more as they develop and start to explore their environment.'
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The cubs' parents both came to Banham about two years ago - Sariska from Bratislava Zoo and Mias, their father, from Le Pal zoo in France.
Mr Woolham said that while Sariska had given birth before, this was the first time Mias had sired cubs.
He said: 'Because Banham has a lot of experience with big cats and in particular Sri Lankan leopards he was sent to us with the view that we might be able to persuade him that breeding was a good idea. Sariska constantly made amorous advances towards him but he hasn't been interested until now.'
Mr Woolham said he hoped the cubs would lead to more people visiting the zoo, and raise awareness of their breeding programmes for endangered animals. He said: 'It's a fantastic opportunity for us to promote the status of animals that we care for. We hope they never become extinct, but if their numbers do dwindle to the point where it is considered they could no longer survive, we could re-introduce them into the wild.'
Mr Woolham said there were about 700,000 leopards of all species in the world just 50 years ago, but there were now thought to be less than 15,000. He said it was still too early to tell the cubs' sex, and they did not yet have names.