Leopard (Panthera pardus) : The Dr. Khalaf-von Jaffa Websites

Chinese Leopard

The Chinese Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis, Gray 1862) in Neunkirchen Zoo, Neunkirchen, Saarland, Germany.*

Der Chinesische Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis, Gray 1862) im Neunkircher Zoo, Neunkirchen, Saarland, Deutschland.*

By: Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa.

*Note: This article was published as:
Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2006). The Chinese Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis, Gray 1862) in Neunkirchen Zoo, Neunkirchen, Saarland, Germany / Der Chinesische Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis, Gray 1862) im Neunkircher Zoo, Neunkirchen, Saarland, Deutschland. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Number 60, December 2006. pp. 1-10. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.  www.geocities.com/jaffacity/Chinese_Leopard.html


On Friday 11.08.2006, and Monday 21.08.2006, I visited the Neunkirchen Zoo in Neunkirchen City, situated in the Saarland Federal State, Germany.

The Neunkirchen Zoo is 80 years old; it was first opened in 1926. The Zoo contains nearly 650 animals representing approximately 140 species from six continents. More than 200.000 people visit the 12 ha (30 acre) zoo each year. The daily attractions are: free-flying birds of prey show, seal feeding, and the elephant feeding talks.

Since 1934 many cat species lived in the Neunkirchen Zoo. The Lions (Panthera leo) “Cäsar” and “Juno” came in 1934 from the Berlin Zoo (A Gift from the Prussian Prime Minister Hermann Göring), and “Helena” in 1936 (from the Berlin Circus Paul Busch), Siamese cats (Felis silvestris f. domestica) in 1936 and 1950, one Abyssinian cat (Felis silvestris f. domestica) in 1939, two Caracals (Caracal caracal) in 1959, European wild cats (Felis silvestris) in 1961, Pumas (Puma concolor) in 1966, two Jungle cats (Felis chaus) in 1967, five African Lions (Panthera leo) in 1968 (from the Mainz Zoo), one Tiger cat or Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus) in 1968 (from the Mainz Zoo), one Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) in 1968 (from the Mainz Zoo), two Ceylon Leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya) in 1968, two Bengal Tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) in 1969, Siberian Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) in 1975, the Black Panther (Panthera pardus), the Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), Chinese Leopards (Panthera pardus japonensis), and the Indian Lions (Panthera leo goojratensis) “Honey” and “Tamil” came in 1989 from the East Berlin Zoo Friedrichsfelde (A Gift from the East German President Erich Honecker), and “Gandhi” (from Nürnberg Zoo)  (Brandstätter, 2001).

During my two visits, I observed the only wild cat species living now in the Zoo: The Chinese Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis, Gray 1862).

There are two female leopards living in a medium-size typical enclosure in the Leopard House. The two sisters were captive born in Salzburg Zoo on 05/04/1988. The first one is “Chi-Li” (Breed # 470) which was transferred from Salzburg to Magdeburg Zoo on 05/12/1988, and then it was transferred to Neunkirchen Zoo on 08/08/1996. The second one is “Mai-Ling” (Breed # 471) which was also transferred from Salzburg to Magdeburg Zoo on 05/12/1988, and then it was transferred to Neunkirchen Zoo on 20/04/2005. Both females were reared by their Parents.

The Neunkirchen Zoo is involved in the EEP (Europäisches Erhaltungszucht-Programm / European Endangered Species Breeding program) for Chinese Leopards. The EEP-coordinator is the Zoo Veterinarian and Mammals Curator Dr. Michael Flügger from the Tierpark Hagenbeck, Hamburg, Germany.

During my two visits, I saw one of the two females; it was sitting very calmly near the enclosure’s fence, and was looking at us (me, my wife “Ola” and my daughter “Nora”), and also looking all around the place. After a while, it got up and walked a short distance inside its enclosure, and then it sat down again near the fence.
The Chinese Leopard enclosure is near a big enclosure which contains sheep, Amrock and Cochin cock; and behind the Leopard House there is a big enclosure which contains the Angola Giraffe, Chapman Zebras and the Blue-neck Ostriches.

The Leopard House was first built in 1972, and there is a new plan to build modern enclosures for big cats (Lions, Tigers and Leopards) in 2007/2008; and it will cost around 1.000.000 Euro.

The Chinese Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis, Gray 1862) was originally named on the basis of a skin purchased in Japan (where leopards are absent). Chinese leopards, formerly called North China leopards, have a broad range extending from Sichuan to southern China and north to Beijing. These leopards live in northern China, south of the Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis). Because many of their populations are disjunct or otherwise restricted to isolated mountain ranges, this medium-sized leopard is best described as having an orange coat, long-haired during winter, with black rosettes that vary somewhat in appearance depending on the part of China from which the individual originated. The rosettes are large, have much darker enclosed fur, and sometimes even a spot within the rosette - traits common in jaguars, but not seen in other leopard subspecies. As a result of this variation, 3 to 4 additional subspecies have been assigned to leopards originating in China, but all are now considered junior synonyms of japonensis. Population estimates are difficult to ascertain, but the wild population is unlikely to number more than 2,500 breeding adults. The IUCN Red List category has been changed from Vulnerable to Endangered, one step below Critically Endangered. With a founder size of only eight animals, this race has floundered in recent years and in January, 1999, the captive population outside of China numbered only 69 (34.35) leopards living in 32 zoos. Nearly all are maintained in Europe. While there are known to be additional Chinese leopards in Chinese zoos as well as a regional (China) studbook, interaction between the international and Chinese population has been lacking.  There is a highly genetically diverse population in Europe, which will allow this species to continue for another 2-3 generations. New founder blood (wild-caught) is needed to maintain a genetically sound captive colony in Europe. There is a possibility of receiving captured 'problem' animals that would otherwise have been destroyed. In North America, this subspecies is being phased out due to a lack of space and low founder size.

The weight ranges in Chinese Leopard males from 80 to 198 pounds, and in females from 60 to 130 pounds. The height measures at the shoulder from 18 to 30 inches. In captivity, they have been known to live 20 years or more; and in the wild it is thought to be closer to 12 years.


Special thanks go to the Neunkirchen Zoo Director Dr. Norbert Fritsch for providing Information and Zoo-Records about the Chinese Leopards in Neunkirchen Zoo, and sending the new Zoo publications (commemorating the Neunkirchen ZooÂ’s 80th Anniversary).


References and Internet Websites:

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Author & Webmaster: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa. (2006).