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Rare Amur leopards settle in to new home thanks to loving legacy

PUBLISHED: 18:34 15 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:35 16 May 2018

Thrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Thrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

Like most families with three growing offspring the Amur leopards of Thrigby found they needed more space to work, rest, and play.

Thrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure.
Picture: Nick ButcherThrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure. Picture: Nick Butcher

And this week proud mum Korea and her three boisterous cubs tried out their new enclosure, giving them three times the room to move than before.

Their new living area at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, near Great Yarmouth, has been funded by a loving legacy from one of its most enthusiastic supporters Jerry Fisher.

Mr Fisher, a lifelong friend of Thrigby founder Ken Sims, died in 2016 leaving a generous bequest which has enabled a new home to be built for the critically endangered animals.

The £10,000 enclosure was revealed to the public today (Tuesday) - and not to be upstaged, the leopards put on a good show.

Patricia Hodge opens the new Thrigby Wildlife gardens leopard enclosure.
Picture: Nick ButcherPatricia Hodge opens the new Thrigby Wildlife gardens leopard enclosure. Picture: Nick Butcher

Bounding between the zones and gambolling along raised walkways the seven-month-old youngsters capered, pounced and pranced around the area built to their specifications and needs.

Taking in an existing Yew tree, it features a range of climbing apparatus, shaded sleeping platforms and overhead walkways designed with both the animals’ and visitors’ needs in mind.

Zoo director Scott Bird said their carefree play was good to see but in reality things were looking gloomy for the threatened species.

Numbers in the wild were reckoned as low as 100 with the Thrigby cubs poised to play a role in the population’s recovery.

Thrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure.
Picture: Nick ButcherThrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure. Picture: Nick Butcher

The three females could prove invaluable to a reintroduction programme that seeks to create a new community in Lazouski, south east Russia, he said, although they would remain with Thrigby for some time yet.

Officially opening the enclosure was Mr Fisher’s partner Trish Hodge who said: “He thought the world of Thrigby, it was his second home.

“He would have been absolutely thrilled with the enclosure and to know that the money he left went towards it.”

Mr Sims, who first met Mr Fisher in 1966 on his first day as director at the old Glasgow Zoo, said: “He was a great believer that quality of space was as important as quantity of space. The way the cubs are behaving speaks for itself.

Thrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure.
Picture: Nick ButcherThrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure. Picture: Nick Butcher

“The enclosure is extra special in that it will be a lasting reminder of all Jerry’s involvement and expertise.”

Thrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure.
Picture: Nick ButcherThrigby Wildlife gardens open a new leopard enclosure. Picture: Nick Butcher

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