North Chinese Leopard

Rare in captivity, Howletts is one of just two collections in the UK to house this species. After receiving a breeding pair in 2008, we celebrated the birth of our first litter of two males in 2010, one of which was transferred to a Hungarian zoo in 2011.

HABITAT: The range of leopard species is the most widespread of all the big cats, covering a large stretch of Africa, parts of the Middle East, and Asia, including China, India, and eastern Russia. The former range of North Chinese leopards once ranged from Central China from Lanzhou, north to the mountains south of the Chinese Gobi Desert, and east through Harbin. However, today their populations have been reduced to fragmented pockets across this range.

CHARACTERISTICS: Similar in size to its northern cousin the Indochinese leopard, the North Chinese leopard has a darker fur than other leopard species, which is spotted with large rosettes. The average weight for a wild leopard is 50 kg (110 lb) for an adult male and 32 kg (70 lb) for a female.

BIOLOGY: Like all leopards, the North Chinese leopard is an opportunist hunter and will eat nearly anything it catches, including birds, rodents and insects. However, its main prey is deer species and wild boar. North Chinese leopards mate early in the year, and after a gestation period of 105-110 days an average litter of 2-3 cubs are born. The cubs weigh about one pound at birth, and open their eyes when they are about 10 days old. They will stay with their mother until they are about 20-24 months old.

CONSERVATION STATUS: Classified as Endangered, only around 2500 remain in the wild, with an additional 100 animals in captivity. Howletts introduced this species to our collection for the first time in 2008, with female ‘Ting-ting’ from Karlsruhe Zoo in Germany and male ‘Saian’ from Thoiry Zoo in France.