Already rare with just 19 to 26 Amur leopards worldwide, the death of 7-year-old Lina was a crushing blow to the Erie zoo this week. With that, one of the most endangered large cat species in existence creeps closer to extinction.
Erie zoo animal handlers attempted to socialize male Edgar, 5, with Lina in the hopes that they would mate and provide a jump to the Amur leopard population instead of a drop. However, Edgar responded to the coupling by mauling Lina by the throat.
Male Amur leopards are much larger than females, weighing in between 80 and 190 pounds. Females, by comparison, average 60 to 130 pounds.
Despite the efforts of those handlers to save Lina’s life, the leopard passed away as a result of her injuries. Zoo director Scott Mitchell addressed the event via an official statement:
"For us it is emotional because we've never had this happen in the 30-plus years of my history here. But the species, it is an even bigger loss. This may be one of the world's most endangered cats. And to lose one of the most important breeding females is just devastating."
Devastating, indeed. That, of course, brings Edgar’s fate into question. Which is to say, Edgar did kill one of the most important endangered cats in the world, but as one himself, termination as discipline doesn’t exactly seem like a viable option. In terms of the greater good, putting him down doesn’t make sense, but, then, neither does attempting to mate him again.
As a result, the Erie zoo appears to have a catch-22 on their hands. One, of course, that will need to be solved should we want to marvel over Amur leopards in the future.