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Captivity question, Amur leopard

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Reenie Mastrella, 22 Oct 2020.

  1. Reenie Mastrella

    Reenie Mastrella Member

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    I appreciate the conservation work, rehabilitation, caring, and enrichment zoos provide, but as a new zoo visitor, I still have concerns that kept me from zoos for 40 years.

    I recently visited the Bronx Zoo. When I visited the Amur Leopard exhibit I was impressed by what seemed to be a several-story tall exhibit, but distressed that the length and width of the exhibit was somewhat small.

    Can someone comment to explain why a big cat doesn't need room to run. Or is it possible that, behind the scenes, the leopard gets to run? What happens in winter? The exhibit appears to be indoors, but what about the big cats with outdoor exhibits? Are they in tiny cages all winter?

    Thank you in advance.
     
  2. Echobeast

    Echobeast Well-Known Member

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    So size of exhibits is a complicated matter and has many factors going into it. Basically the size of the exhibit is secondary to the space required to have the things an animal needs to thrive in human care. For most species, those things can be placed in what most people would see as a small space. In reality, space isn’t as important to an animal’s welfare as enrichment, variety, and choice in the space provided. If you give an animal 100 acres, they are probably only going to use the space that has those needed things in it. So based on those things, exhibit space is varied depending on the zoo you visit and the species in question.

    For leopards like you saw at the Bronx, they are highly arboreal and will spend most of their resting time in trees and only come down to hunt or patrol their territory. You’ll see at most zoos that leopard exhibits have lots of perching and vertical platforms for the animal to use because that’s what leopards are comfortable with. They don’t need lots of land space. Tigers and lions on the other hand don’t use vertical space as much and will often need larger land space.

    Amur leopards are common in AZA zoos and are very weather tolerant and can be exhibited in many climates both hot and cold year round. Other big cat species have temperature thresholds that they can go out in but can go outside as long as they have access to warmth from their indoor shelter or from things like heated rocks.
     
  3. Gavinj90

    Gavinj90 Active Member

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    You're starting off with an assumption that a leopard needs to run at all. As has been mentioned above, they spend the vast majority of their time in the wild sitting around/sleeping. They're more of an ambush predator, so even when hunting, they won't be running that much.
     
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  4. Reenie Mastrella

    Reenie Mastrella Member

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    Thank you for the replies. You have both eased my mind. I have two follow up questions. If I should copy and paste into a new thread, please let me know.

    1.) I know I don't see on the zoo shows everything available behind the scenes. For example, on several shows I have seen big cats or other mammals running in yards. But what happens to these animals in winter in zoos in cold climates? Are they in small cages for months? Are giraffes in small pens all winter? The idea of animals being caged is why I stopped going to zoos 30 or so years ago. And signed many petitions against zoos, too. It is only because I saw a promo about The Zoo and was angry there was a show about caged animals that I watched and was pleasantly amazed. During the year do the animals that need it get to run a little and feel free?

    2.) Re: birds. Do the larger birds get to fly at all? At Bronx I saw an exhibit of owls and the net looked really low.

    Thank you in advance for insights. I am amazed by the love I see on all the shows I now am obsessed with (San Diego, Bronx, Columbus, Chester, Australia) but have been uneasy about the questions I have just asked.
     
  5. Echobeast

    Echobeast Well-Known Member

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    1) Even in the winter there are days most animals can go outside. Good zoos have options such as heated shelters and rocks that allow tropical species to go outside year round. Even so, indoor housing is designed to be adequate for the animals so even if they have to stay inside, they still get amazing care and they aren’t forced to stay inside for super long periods of time.

    2) Depends on the bird, the exhibit, and the zoo. If there is netting over the exhibit, good chance that the birds inside can fly. If no netting, zoos will often clip wing feathers to keep their birds in the exhibit but this practice is frowned upon by many keepers and zoos are starting to go away from that practice. Low netting doesn’t mean they can’t fly nor do birds really enjoy flying all the time. Flying is energy expensive and if given the choice, birds tend to choose to stay on the ground.
     
  6. EsserWarrior

    EsserWarrior Well-Known Member

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    Cats don't spend much time running. It can be hard to not anthropomorphize when it comes to analyzing animal care. People often expect animals to require much more - or way less - than they actually need to thrive in captivity.

    When it comes to enrichment - as well as other forms of stimulation - I have noticed that cats tend to prefer scent-based items the most. Zoos often use perfumes, shed fur from other animals, and enrichment items from other animals and placed them around the enclosure. This seems to keep them stimulated for the few hours that they're actually awake.

    Young cats are going to have more energy than adults, but they don't stay young forever!


    This is true! One of my favorite examples of large off-show exhibits is Milwaukee County Zoo's off-show area for their bonobos. They have three humongous indoor areas for their bonobos to be in when they're not out on exhibit. They're also extremely tall and provide the bonobos with tons of enrichment and climbing opportunities. It doesn't look very natural, but I don't think they seem to mind.
     
  7. Gavinj90

    Gavinj90 Active Member

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    This is generalising somewhat since different animals have different needs, but when it comes to temperature, a lot of mammals are pretty hardy creatures. One of the things that makes them mammals, by definition, is the ability for their bodies to regulate temperatures. That doesn't mean that they'll be suited to spending as much time outside as usual if it's extremely cold (or too hot), but going out for short periods isn't going to harm many of them, and they'll still have the option of staying in where it's warm if they want to. Even warmer countries can get some very cold snaps of weather, with some "hot" places getting incredibly cold at night.
     
  8. Reenie Mastrella

    Reenie Mastrella Member

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    Wow. Thank you all for your answers! I will sleep better tonight.
     
  9. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    Regarding birds, keep in mind many that are native species are injured rescues. All bald eagles in zoos, for instance, are animals that could no longer survive in the wild. This is often the case for owl species, as well, along with other large (and small) birds of prey. An exhibit that looks like it doesn't allow room for the bird to fly might be that way because the bird(s) can't fly, anyway.
     
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