These are the first images of an endangered Sri Lankan leopard cub – of which only 800 remain in the wild – seen here playing with its mum.
The heartwarming images were filmed by the CERZA animal park in the town of Hermival-les-Vaux, in the Department of Calvados, in France’s north-eastern Normandy region on the English Channel.
The young cub was born on 19th April, Houssaye said, but these images are the first, showing the young leopard, whose species is “endemic to Sri Lanka”, joyfully playing with its mum, who appears very tolerant of the young cub’s antics in the footage.
Newsflash spoke to their European and global coordinator Frederic Houssaye at their Conservation and Education Department and to their Press Officer Malorie Plaisance in an exclusive interview.
Houssaye told Newsflash that his work “consists of the overall management of the breeding programme in order to guarantee good demography and good genetics of the captive population”
He said that the newborn cub does not have a name yet but that the veterinarian staff are going to name him – “it’s a male” – in the coming days.
Malorie told Newsflash that the young cub’s mum “is called Wallawe and its dad is called Lenn” and that both are also at the CERZA animal park.
Plaisance explained that the zoo, which boasts “1,500 animals over 78 hectares” is a member of numerous European and global conservation initiatives, including the EAZA (the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), which brings together over 340 organisations in 41 countries to operate the European Endangered Species programme (EEP), and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
The CERZA animal park is currently open as France eases its COVID-19 lockdown measures.
Houssaye said: “I organise transfers between zoos and provide information to zoos about the management of this subspecies in captivity.”
Sri Lankan leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya) are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species.
There are only between “900 and 1,000” adult members of the species left in the wild, according to Houssaye, and just “90 Sri Lankan leopards in captivity in 30 animal parks around the world”.
Human encroachment on their habitat is one of the main threats to their survival. Many are also killed by farmers protecting their livestock, which is why The Leopard Project was founded under the Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) by conservationist Anjali Watson.
Houssaye explained that the goal is to maintain at least 90 percent of the genetic diversity of the species for 100 years and that this includes 23 years of management by humans, with animal parks and zoos collaborating to ensure the species’ survival and genetic viability.
He added that 2020 was scarred by a record number of “human-induced leopard deaths”, with 14 individuals killed. He said: “An important cause of death is the use of snares. It appears to be an increasing trend, but the pandemic may have influenced the observations as people are more likely to hunt for food because with lockdown they cannot work and afford normal food supplies.”