‘Too old’ Persian leopard fathers twins

ENGLAND — Zoo keepers are celebrating the birth of two rare Persian leopard cubs at Chessington World of Adventures.

The cubs’ parents were paired at the Surrey zoo in 2003 and keepers had begun to think the 11-year-old male, Kalaf, was too old to be a father.

But mother Shakira, four, proved them wrong when she gave birth on 25 July.

There are only 1,300 recorded Persian leopards left in the wild and about 70 in captivity around the world.

“The birth of two healthy cubs at Chessington is a big boost for the population,” said senior big cats keeper Nick Simpson-Eyre.

“Breeding programmes like ours are imperative in sustaining their numbers and stemming extinction of these striking creatures.”

Shakira arrived in Surrey from Bern Zoo at the age of 13 months. Kalaf arrived from Stuttgart Zoo in August 2001. Both are first-time parents.

Parents Kalaf and Shakira were paired by the zoo in 2003

“We have been working on breeding the leopards for several years now, but it was not really happening,” said Mr Simpson-Eyre.

“We thought perhaps Kalaf was getting too old, as he is 12 this year.

“We also speculated that his teeth needed some work as he was not able to effectively ‘bite’ his partner during mating. However, the dentist is not required after all.”

The cubs are said to have a healthy appetite and are bonding well with their mother.

Visitors can see the cubs on a “cub cam” set up in the enclosure until they take their first steps in public in the next few months.



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