The African Journey at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is home to Rowdy the Amur leopard. You may pass by without seeing him – his spots act as a camouflage and help him blend in to his surroundings. These spots are called rosettes, and each leopard has a unique rosette pattern.
Amur Leopards are native to China and Russia, and are built for dealing with an extreme climate. They have longer legs than other leopards to deal with their native terrain, which typically features lots of deep snow. The longer legs help them navigate their snowy surroundings. Amur leopards also have a longer fur coat than other leopard species, which helps them survive temperatures as low as -30°F. These felines are strong, too. They’re capable of a 10ft vertical jump and a 19ft horizontal jump!
You may notice that at the zoo, Rowdy lives alone. But, don’t worry – he’s not lonely. Leopards are actually solitary creatures and only come together about once a year for breeding. Once that time has passed, they go their separate ways.
Zookeepers feed Rowdy 1.5 pounds of ground horse meat each day. This diet is similar to what he would hunt down in the wild. Zookeepers also hide some ice treats – made of blood and water – for enrichment. When it comes to caring for Rowdy, safety is the biggest concern for staff getting into the exhibit. Zookeepers are very hands-off with carnivores, meaning they are never in the same enclosure. They actually don’t touch Rowdy, either. When staff need to feed Rowdy or clean the exhibit, he is locked in a metal chute or put in a separate pen.
Fort Wayne is very fortunate to have Rowdy – Amur leopards are widely considered to be the world’s rarest cat. They’re critically endangered, with only about 50-60 of them left in the wild. Conservation is very important for Amur leopards because this is a species that could go extinct in our lifetime.