Lilly, an African leopard, lounges in her enclosure at Springhill Exotic Wildlife Park in Calvert. Stephanie Butts/Telegram
She paces back and forth on the other side of the fence. She leaps up onto the bench 4 feet above her head and continues to pace. The menacing rumble coming from her chest adds intensity to the constant movement of the beast. The African leopard, Lilly, is in heat, but her owners, John Wallace and Michele Ashton, haven’t been able to find her a mate.
African leopards are classified as threatened on the endangered species list, according to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. Wallace said it’s difficult to find leopards even in captivity, but he hasn’t given up hope.
Lilly is one of about 25 large exotic cats that Wallace and Ashton keep on 25 acres they’ve made into the Springhill Exotic Wildlife Park.
The couple’s goal is to protect exotic cats on the endangered species list and educate the public about the dangers of the cats’ extinction.
“It’s our life and we love them,” said Wallace.
Some of the other endangered cats on their property are Bengal tigers, the largest of the exotic cats and native to India. There are eight subspecies of tiger, with three of those being extinct and the rest on the endangered species list, according to National Geographic’s website. The Bengal tiger is the most common tiger, but only about 1,250 are left in the wild.