As you venture into African Journey and make your way around the bend, where on most days you may see our handsome African leopard Hobbes basking in the sunlight, you just might come across Sofiya, an Amur leopard who came to us from The Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, CT. Sofiya is six years old, and is one of very few Amur leopards in the world. It is estimated that there are fewer than forty living in the wild, and the Amur leopard is considered the most critically endangered leopard subspecies.
Amur leopards previously encompassed the Amur River basin in the mountains of northeastern China and the Korean peninsula. Today, it only survives in one isolated population in the Russian Far East, although there may be a few individual leopards in the Jilin Province of northeast China.
The fur of the Amur leopard tends to be more “fluffy” than other leopard subspecies, which is needed to adapt to the colder climate in winter, and their legs are longer which allow them to walk through the snow easily. Their coat may be a reddish-yellow in the summer months, and then becomes lighter/paler in the winter to camouflage in the snow. The rosettes are widely spaced, and larger with thicker borders than other leopards.
You may find this “fun fact” about Sofiya even more interesting. Her favorite enrichment is for the keepers to spray perfume and sprinkle spices in her exhibit. At times, you will find her rubbing and rolling where the enrichment was placed.
Sofiya will be on exhibit in the current leopard exhibit space along with Hobbes in the African Journey. The two leopards will not be on exhibit together, but will rotate with each other receiving time in the exhibit. Make sure you stop by and welcome her the next time you are here at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore!