An Amur leopard cat at Helsinki Zoo. Photo: Mari Lehmonen / Helsinki Zoo

Helsinki Zoo receives a new wild cat: Amur leopard cat

Helsinki Zoo’s Cat Valley acquired a new tenant in March 2019. Cat Valley became home to a six-month-old male Amur leopard cat.  

This wild cat has started his new life in Helsinki with bursting energy, stalking the red pandas in the neighbouring enclosure. The Amur leopard cat does not compete in size with the tigers and leopards of the same regions in the Far East where the species lives, but it is second to none of its bigger cousins in its wild nature. 

The Amur leopard cat came to Helsinki Zoo from the Jihlava Zoo in the Czech Republic. Helsinki Zoo seeks to breed Amur leopard cats, so the zoo is looking for a female partner for the young male. 

The body and limbs of the Amur leopard cat are marked with spots that allow the animal to blend into its surroundings. This leopard cat usually hunts at night. It feeds on rodents and birds, sometimes on rabbits and even snakes. If need be, it can fish, as it is a good swimmer. It climbs with the agility of all cats. 

The Amur leopard cat is the northernmost subspecies of the Asian leopard cat. It is native to the Manchurian pine forests of China, the Amur region of the Russian Far East, the Korean Peninsula and the Tsushima Island of Japan.  

The leopard cat is an example of a species that is not endangered, owing to the large habitat of the species, but whose local subspecies are at risk. The main reason for this is hunting for fur. For example, as many as hundreds of thousands of leopard cats were killed for fur in China in the 1980s. The hunting of the species and the persecution of the species due to the danger presented by it to poultry continue despite efforts to protect the species. 

There are only a few leopard cats in European zoos, and their mating is controlled in order to develop a healthy zoo population. 

Helsinki Zoo last had leopard cats in 2005. The zoo wanted to bring the species back, because the role of small cats in biologically diverse ecosystems is just as important as that of large cats such as leopards and tigers. 

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