Spot the leopards ...

Three Amur leopards arriving at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Three Amur leopards arriving at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park
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NOW arriving at platform one - three leopards for Doncaster.

Big cats took the Channel Tunnel from France to become the latest additions to the breeding programme at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

They have arrived as part of a European pledge to save the endangered species.

Special dispensation was granted to staff at the Branton based safari park to collect the Amur leopards, who are one-year-old brothers, and transport them through the Channel Tunnel to their new home.

The park was contacted by the European studbook keeper to take the three brothers from the European breeding programme, which aims to boost the species’ population.

There are just 35 remaining in wild population, and 100 in the breeding programme.

Once confined to a small patch of land along the border of Russia and China, the breed is 10 times more endangered than the Amur tiger.

Park director Cheryl Williams said: “We were delighted to be approached by the studbook to take these incredibly beautiful rare cats.

“We look forward to taking part in the breeding programme in the future.

“There is currently work in the field to prepare reserves for the reintroduction of these big cats to the wild to boost the small population and it would be very exciting if we can play even a small part in that in the future.”

The triplets had been living with their mother in Mulhouse, France, but needed to be found a new home when she gave birth to a new cub.

Now in rabies quarantine in their new home in Branton until late summer, they will soon integrate fully into life at the park, and in a couple of years’ time two of them will move on to take part in the breeding programme elsewhere and the remaining brother will have a female mate.

At present, the leopards are being housed in the quarantine-approved tiger house at the park, as the park’s tiger is now in his reserve.

But that is a short term arrangement until their own house is built, at which point they will be moved into their own purpose built accommodation.

The Amur tiger, called Vladimir, is the park’s first venture into the breeding programme, and a female is due to join him at the park.

The leopards take the number of breeds of big cats at the venue to three, with 13 lions already there after they were rescued from a rundown Romanian zoo last year.