SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Zoo is ready to introduce a new Amur Leopard to the public.
Nine-year-old Kasha has been at the zoo since March, but is now ready to make his debut.
Kasha will be paired with the zoo's female leopard, Ajax. The zoo hopes the pair will breed, after attempts with the female leopard's previous partner were unsuccessful.
The zoo's previous male leopard, Wyatt, left for the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in Indiana earlier this year.
“We are excited for everyone to finally have the chance to meet Kasha now,” said Rachel Ritchason, Santa Barbara Zoo's Director of Animal Collections. “We have already begun introducing Kasha and Ajax. They are taking turns in the exhibit and holdings, learning each other’s scent, which we hope will lead to a successful pairing between the two. As an older leopard, Kasha is very calm and comes with a lot of experience, having had a mate before. Animal keepers say that Kasha is very smart and careful in how he moves and explores his spaces.”
Born in Nesles, France at Le Parc des Felins, Kasha comes to Santa Barbara from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago where he has previously sired three litters.
Amur leopards are the most endangered big cats in the world, the zoo says. Ajax is a particularly important for the species because her genetics are unrepresented in North American AZA zoos and aquariums. She plays an important role in diversifying the gene pool of leopards in North America.
The zoo hopes the two will be successful in their breeding attempts. But in the meantime, the two big cats are getting to know each other. Visitors to the zoo might not see both of them in their exhibits at the same time while zookeepers work to make sure their integration goes smoothly.
The Santa Barbara Zoo reopened to the public in late June. The zoo has instituted some new safety procedures, and anyone interested in visiting must book a reservation ahead of time.
To book a reservation, click here.