Leopard finds new sanctuary

Cyrus, a rare Persian leopard with a heart condition, who has been given sanctuary in Rutland
Cyrus, a rare Persian leopard with a heart condition, who has been given sanctuary in Rutland
Have your say

This beautiful rare leopard, which suffers from a rare heart condition, has found a new home at an animal 

Cyrus, a three-year-old Persian leopard who was born at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey three years ago was found to have the heart condition during a routine veterinary health check.

An incompetent aortic valve in his heart meant Cyrus would not be allowed to breed in captivity.

Conservationists removed him from the European Breeding Programme and searched for a new spot he could call home.

The Rutland Falconry and Owl Centre at Exton was chosen as it is an animal sanctuary specialising in caring for rare big cats as well as birds and now Cyrus will have the opportunity of living out his natural lifespan there.

Chessington leopard keeper Jon Merrington said: “Cyrus is a beautiful cat and, having spent the last three years together, I’m going to miss having him around.

“Sadly, his condition has removed him from the European Breeding Programme.

“However, part of managing the Persian Leopard population as a whole is to ensure that we have plans in place for our 
non-breeding animals to 
enable them to have as good a quality of life as the breeding animals.”

The falconry and owl centre, which is run by Chris Lawton, is also home to four rare Amur leopards.

There are six open days a year when members of the public can see the big cats.

The centre itself, which is home to 130 birds of prey, opens seven days a week and also runs courses.

Mr Lawton stressed that no-one would be allowed to see Cyrus, or any of the other cats, until he has firmly settled into his new home.

“He’s a bit stressed out at the moment and we’re trying to sort him out,” he said.

“When you move a cat like that it takes time for them to settle into strange surroundings.”

Persian leopards are among the rarest in the world. They are the largest of all leopards, with an average body length of 9ft 6in. They can weigh up to about 14st. They are traditionally found in eastern Turkey, the Caucasus mountains, northern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and western Afghanistan and live in rugged terrains, forests and plains. They eat a variety of animals including deer, goat, sheep, camel, dog, mule, wild boar and birds. There are thought to be about 1,000 living in the wild but numbers are declining.