Over the past month, the Greenville Zoo staff has used ultrasound imaging to confirm that Jade, the zoo’s nine-year-old female Amur leopard, is pregnant and monitor the health of her unborn cubs. Weather permitting, the staff conducts an ultrasound each Monday and Thursday from the public side of the Amur leopard enclosure, allowing zoo guests an opportunity to view the process and learn about the leopards. Zookeepers trained Jade to climb onto a box attached to the fence inside her enclosure, lie down and remain in position. This allows the veterinary staff to access the inside of the box from outside the enclosure and use the ultrasound probe to examine her. A docent or zookeeper is usually on hand to share information with guests during the procedure. The public’s next opportunity to observe the procedure is this Thursday, January 16 at 11 a.m.
Jade was transferred to the Greenville Zoo in 2011 from the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana. In November 2016, the zoo imported Nelkan, its 13-year-old male Amur leopard, from Zoo Hoyerswerda in Berlin, Germany as part of the Amur Leopard Species Survival Program (SSP). The zoo staff introduced Nelkan and Jade in January 2017 and their first cubs, a male and a female, were born in April. The cubs’ birth was an important success for the Greenville Zoo’s conservation efforts and the SSP, as it introduced another bloodline into the North American population.
The Amur leopard is one of the most critically endangered big cats in the world, with numbers ranging around 84 in the wild and 180 in captivity. Because they are so rare, zoos work together internationally to ensure that the genetic variability of the captive population remains at a high level, both for the health of the animals and in the event there comes a time when they can be reintroduced to the wild.
Due to stress exhibited by Jade following the birth in 2017, staff moved Nelkan to the zoo’s hospital area for holding while Jade raised the cubs; however, due to the hospital renovation project taking place now and the planned construction of a second holding building adjacent to the leopards’ enclosure, that will not be possible this time. As a result, with Jade expected to give birth within the next four weeks, the zoo is working with the Amur Leopard SSP to relocate Nelkan to the Philadelphia Zoo on a breeding loan, giving Jade the time she needs and allowing the zoo time to complete the additional holding building during his absence.