The WHF is based in Kent, very near to Headcorn, Smarden and Biddenden and their work is concentrated on supporting and improving populations of some of the worlds most endangered big cats.

They are absolutely not a zoo as public access is limited to open days and booked visits and all of the information can be found on their website www.whf.org.ukWe have been fortunate enough to have been invited to meet two of the latest arrivals at the site in Kent and there could not be two more important cubs in the UK today. These two new borns are Amur Leopards with the Amur Leopard being the rarest big cat in the world the importance of their birth and the work that WHF do cannot be exaggerated. It is estimated that there may only be 30 to 35 left in the wild and around 100 in captivity. This presents the breeding program with not insignificant problems, as finding a pair that are distantly related enough to be able to produce viable cubs is difficult. But there is a lot of information available through a stud book and clearly genetic profiling of the individuals can ensure that the most distantly related individuals are introduced. That presents a whole range of other challenges, as ideal pairings can be thousands of miles apart and moving a Leopard is not like hopping on a bus for a trip to the shops.

In the wild, their habitat is threatened and has been segregated by human activity, this has isolated populations and increasingly, related animals are breeding which in the long term is endangers the species. All of these facts increase the importance of the activity of the Wildlife Heritage Trust and groups like them.

A number of images from the day can be viewed HERE

The Mother of the cubs is called Xizi and arrived with the WHF in 2009 from Helsinki Zoo in Finland and she is a very important part of the European Endangered Species Program. A program designed to raise awareness and help ensure the genetic diversity of species that are in steep decline.

Rebecca Porter, Head Keeper explained to us how difficult the process can be, “The introduction of a mate is a very risky process that can potentially lead to the male killing the female. But we gradually introduced Xizi to her new partner, Hogar, in an adjacent enclosure back in February. It soon became obvious that they were very keen on each other through the wire. So when we opened the gate between them, they hit it off immediately!” Xizi was pregnant for around 90 days and the keepers were overjoyed when the two cubs arrived in the morning of the 22nd of May.

When asked what the birth meant to her, Rebecca replied “I could tell she was going into labour the night before, so I monitored Xizi on the camera we had fitted to her nesting box throughout the night. Seeing her give birth was an overwhelming experience that will stay with me forever. It’s such an important event and I’m so lucky to have witnessed it.”, she added.

If you are interested in visiting this fantastic conservation program and seeing some of these rare animals in their incredibly well thought out enclosures, you can find details on the WHF website. How about being a ranger for a day or how about getting out that digital camera for a photography day?.

You can also see some of the other cat species being supported by WHF HERE

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