Beardsley Zoo's rare Amur leopard cubs to celebrate their 1st birthday Saturday

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Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is gearing up for an exciting and important birthday party for its rare Amur leopard cubs.

Orion and his sister Kallisto often draw a crowd, but on Saturday their audience will help mark the cubs' first birthdays.

"It's amazing to think that it's been a year because it seems like only yesterday they were tiny little fur nuggets," says Bethany Thatcher, animal care specialist at the zoo.

News 12 got to meet them soon after zoo staff took over their care:

 

"Mom was a little too attentive, which then caused damage, which then necessitated our staff pull the cubs and hand-rear them," says Gregg Dancho, director of the Beardsley Zoo.

Hand-raising Amur leopards hasn't been done much, but week after week, the cubs did more than survive. They made their public debut in June. Today, Kalliso weights 71 pounds, and Orion weighs 93 pounds.

"Once you get past three, four months, you kind of take a little breath," says Dancho. "Then once after six months, you take a deeper breath, and now we're at a year and these guys are doing very, very well."

Only about 60 Amur leopards are left in the wild and there are less than 300 in human care. That's why there is plenty to celebrate.

"I guess it's like when your kids go off to college, you see them surviving on their own and doing a good job on their own," says Thatcher.

The zoo is planning a full slate of events Saturday:

- 9 a.m.: First 100 guests through the gate receive free zoo calendar magnet

- 10 a.m.: Education talks begin at the leopard habitat

- 11 a.m.: "Get the Spots Shots!" Photography Class led by Jack and Melanie Bradley in the Research Station

- Noon: Birthday enrichment offered to the cubs, designed to encourage exploration and play. Free cake and hot cocoa served to zoo guests.

- 1 p.m.: Encore presentation of Fostering Felines Part II Lecture in the Research Station: talk supported with photos and video by Leopard Cub Care Specialists Bethany Thatcher and Chris Barker.

A 20% discount will also be offered at the zoo gift shop all day.

 

 

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