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Unique procedure at Erie Zoo, if successful, will be the first of its kind around the world

The Erie Zoo attempting a procedure that may be the first successful one of its kind.  It's all to attempt to help save an endangered species.  We're talking today about the Amur Leopard.  They are one of the rarest cats in the world and actually considered critically endangered.  

The Amur Leopard is an exotic animal with beautiful, distinct fur.  In the wild, they can only be found along the Russian/Chinese border as they favor a cold climate.  With fewer than 60 left in the wild, experts fear extinction.

Scott Mitchell, President of the Erie Zoo, tells us, "When there's so few of them, sometimes it's even difficult for them to come across each other, even to meet."

The Erie Zoo is fortunate enough to have both a male Amur Leopard named Rowdy and a female called Nia.  They're attempting a cutting-edge artificial insemination procedure.  "It's a pretty complex process," Mitchell tells us, "it's laparoscopically done."

After failed attempts the 'old fashioned way,' two scientists from the Cincinnati Zoo took the genetic material from Rowdy and almost immediately implanted it into Nia.  Mitchell tells us, "They go in and actually find the ovaduct and insert the genetic material right in the ovaduct."

The articifical insemination process has never been successful for the Amur Leopard, but within 30 days, the Erie Zoo will know if it's worked for them.  "Our animal care staff is working with our maitenance team to create a way to be able to sonogram the female to determine if she is pregnant," Mitchell tells us.

The ultimate goal is to eventually reintroduce some of the Amur Leopards back into the wild in Russia.  If the artificial insemination is not successful, there is still hope.

Jennifer Salandra, Headkeeper, says, "In the smaller cats that they've done this procedure with, they've found that if they do this and it doesn't take, that's sometimes all that their bodies need to spur it naturally afterward."

Whether artificially or naturally, experts and animal lovers around the world are hoping to soon see a rise in population of this exotic creature.  If Nia becomes pregnant, the zoo is hoping for two Amur Leopard cubs.  Her pregnancy would only last about 100 days.

Check out the videos below to see the process:







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