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On the move to Memphis: Twycross Zoo marks global impact of conservation work on National Endangered Species Day

28th Jun 2023

The leading conservation charity has supported a project to transfer Kira, a 5-year-old female Amur leopard, from Twycross Zoo to a new home at Memphis Zoo as part of an international breeding programme to help protect and preserve the species.

Kira was born at Twycross Zoo in 2016, one of four cubs born to Kristen, a 10-year-old female Amur leopard who arrived at the Zoo when she was two.

Kira is following in the footsteps of her three siblings, who now live across the globe as part of other international breeding programmes. Alexi, a male, lives in Estonia, Samara, a female, lives in Belgium, and Arina, also female, now lives at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park and has recently become a mother herself.

The Amur leopard is currently listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is considered to be one of the most endangered big cats in the world, with less than 100 left in the wild.

Today, the last remaining wild populations of Amur leopards reside in China and the Russian Province of Primorsky Krai, between Vladivostok and the Chinese border. The species faces significant threats in the wild including prey scarcity, poaching and illegal trade. One of the major threats is habitat loss – with estimates that between 1970-1983, the Amur leopard lost 80% of its former territory through logging, forest fires and land conversion.

Dr Sharon Redrobe OBE, CEO at Twycross Zoo, said:

“We’re delighted to work in partnership with Memphis Zoo to help protect and preserve the Amur leopard species, one of the most endangered big cats in the world. As a conservation charity, we’re incredibly proud to support a number of breeding programmes, both here in the UK and internationally, that are having a significant and tangible effect on species survival. It’s wonderful to see that the conservation work we’re doing here at Twycross, right in the heart of the UK, has a truly global impact.”

Dr Luke Evans, MP for Bosworth, said:

“I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this project for their continued efforts to protect rare and endangered species for future generations. Twycross Zoo is working at the forefront of conservation, and with its future plans for an on-site National Science and Conservation Centre – funded by £19.9 million from the Government as part of their ‘Levelling Up’ plan for the country – the region is set to become a national and international hub for scientific research, development and conservation.”

Mayor Jim Strickland, Mayor of the City of Memphis, said:

“Our community is proud to support the zoo in all their endeavours and this achievement should be celebrated. Culture, conservation, and education are important qualities in the City of Memphis, and we are excited to share this remarkable pairing with the community!”

Michael Frushour, Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan Program Leader for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said:

“This transfer of animals between the United States and the UK reinforces the commitment that both countries have in breeding this critically endangered cat. By working together on a global scale, and sharing each other’s leopard population genetics, the species has a much better chance of survival. Continued and appropriate breeding of this critically endangered species will ultimately contribute to the Global Species Management Program for Amur Leopards developing initiatives to hopefully one day reintroduce this leopard into protected areas in Russia and China.”

Dan Dembiec, Curator at Memphis Zoo, said:

“Kira’s arrival is a double win for the Memphis community. Not only are Amur leopards a gorgeous and dynamic species to see at the zoo, but this is also a real-life conservation story. With this species on the brink of extinction in the wild, zoos across the globe are collaboratively managing a breeding program that will ensure this species endures with the potential to reintroduce back to the wild.”

Ashley Palmier, Director at Ventura Wildlife Services, said:

“It is fantastic to play our part in providing specialist wild animal transport for such an important and iconic endangered species. Together with our partners at PBS we have been able to provide safe passage from start to finish for such an important conservation movement between the UK and the USA. We wish Memphis Zoo every success in the fight to conserve this species”

As a conservation charity, Twycross Zoo’s primary purpose is to preserve and protect the species with whom we share our planet. It is thanks to the ongoing support of the public that the Zoo can continue its vital conservation work.


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