Memphis Zoo’s mission is to create adventures and save wildlife. Over the summer the Memphis Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers played a role in saving Amur leopards with a virtual 5k.
The Memphis Zoo is home to Amur leopard, Sputnik. Amur leopards are critically endangered with only about 100 individuals left in the wild. The virtual 5k was organized by Cat Country Keeper Abigail Greenwalt. “I wanted to create an event that would engage a more diverse group of people than just our regular zoo-goers. I also wanted to provide people with an action they could do to support this specific endangered species”, said Greenwalt. With some special help, Abigail was able to raise more than $700 dollars for the Wildcat Conservation Alliance. “Initiatives like this are so important because a huge part of conservation is educating the public. If people make a connection with these animals and learn how critically endangered leopards are, people may be more motivated to act”, said Greenwalt.
Like many endangered species, the threats Amur leopards face are incredibly complex.
So, what changes can we make to help save this species? “The best thing we can do for these cats is to help fund the experts in their efforts of anti-poaching, conflict mitigation, population monitoring, wildlife health monitoring, and educational outreach. That is why I chose to benefit Wildcats Conservation Alliance. I know they are incredibly knowledgeable about the specific needs of Amur leopards and I know all the money will go directly to their conservation” said Greenwalt.
Right now, Amur leopard conservation is poised to be one of the biggest large carnivore conservation stories ever. Through conservation efforts, their population in the wild has already improved from about 40 individuals to about 120 in the last decade. But even more exciting, it is likely going to be the first scientifically derived reintroduction of a large cat species back into the wild. Unlike previous attempts to introduce large cats to the wild, this program has the support of the Russian Government and all reintroduction candidates will come from leopards bred in zoos.