Amur Leopard gentic diversity and heart murmurs

8 September 2009

Have just been in contact with Colchester zoo, that Dende the Amur Leopard has been excluded from the EEP due to him being cryptorchid or possible monorchid and not due to his heart murmur. This condition is typically genetic in origin and would have potentially disastrous consequences should this genetic condition be introduced into the wild population. The right testis has been removed but the left was not found via a scan and not via exploratory surgery. Typically cryptorchid testis develop cancerous tumors hence the need to identify if it is present or not and remove it. As it was not found we believe him to be monorchid.

Good news that Milena, who came from Marwell is ok though (hopefully her younger sister at Marwell, Kiska is ok too as they both have the same parents Asha and Akin), also a second male 'Saryan' from France is now in the collection as future breeding partner for Milena.

Though it's not for me to say, by removing Dende from the breeding programme, is that genetic diversity is going to be reduced as a result. Genetic diversity will be essential to the new planned second population in far east of Russia. Dende came from Tierpark in Germany in 2005, and it's such a shame that Dende is denied the opportunity to contribute to this crucial project for saving the Amur leopards from extinction, I've followed news on him and visited him since he arrived in 2005.

In the past as I understand it, initial findings from the veterinary examination of a female leopard captured in 2007 included the presence of a heart murmur, which could be indicative of inbreeding. The team was able to capture footage of the heart, using a portable sonogram device.

More recently in 2008 A team of conservationists recently captured another female nicknamed ‘Alyona’, aged 8-10 years, 39kg, from the rugged Primorsky Krai region of Russia's Far East and recaptured male 'Pp02'. The scientists gathered detailed health information for the leopards and as I understand it found a slight heart murmur. In 2006 and 2007, health analysis of two other male Amur leopards revealed that all had significant heart murmurs (presumably 'Pp02' was one of them).

Apparently a possibility is that the anaesthetic may be affecting the readings in some instances.

Thanks to John Lewis; Vickie Ledbrook and Jez Smith's efforts regards checking for heart murmurs in these beautiful big cats.