Seeing spots: CT's Beardsley Zoo welcomes rare leopard cubs

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News 12's Marissa Alter got a sneak peek at the new amur leopard cubs at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo.

The two baby leopards were born about two months ago. The zoo bred the leopards through the Species Survival Plan Program, which manages the breeding of animals in human care. It's important since the species is at the brink of extinction.

"We're looking at between 40 and 60 in the wild right now," says zoo director Gregg Dancho. "As part of the zoo's conservation message, conservation ethic, we work with endangered species and one of the things that are most endangered on the planet are these amur leopards."

"If it wasn't for human care and these facilities, we wouldn't be able to see these animals," says animal care specialist Bethany Thatcher. "And once, they're extinct in the wild, that would be it."

The black leopard is one of only two of its color in the country, according to staff. 

The zoo's staff is hand-raising the cubs, a male and a female. The babies needed to be taken from the care of their mother, Freya, as a result of her hyper-grooming. The black female cub needed to have her tail removed due to those injuries, but staff says both are doing well.

"She has not only survived but I think she's thriving," says Thatcher, one of three people caring for the cubs. Dancho says they call the specialists the Leopard Moms and Dads. 

The hope is for the cubs to make their public debut in the next month and a half or so. Fans can check on their progress in the meantime via the zoo's social media accounts.

The cubs aren't named yet but they will be soon. Staff will choose a handful of names they like and then the public will get to weigh in on their favorites.


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