By Ayesha Al Khoori
AL AIN // There is a lot riding on the happiness of new couple Qais and Lubna.
Lubna, 10, an Arabian leopard, has just moved in with her new mate at Al Ain Zoo from her old home at Al Bustan Zoological Centre in Sharjah.
It is hoped the two members of the “critically endangered” species will breed, after tests were carried out to determine their compatibility and ensure they came from different lines on their mothers’ sides.
“At a later stage this year, we will be also looking into doing a genetic testing for the parents and hopefully newborns if everything goes well,” said Myyas Al Qarqaz, the zoo’s animal collection manager.
Qais, 9, was adopted by Al Ain Zoo in 2008 from the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah.
He and his new partner are being looked after by the Conservation Department of Endangered Species.
Blood tests were performed on both leopards, with the results referred to the International Species Information System and the Studbook records to check their genealogy.
To better understand the reproductive cycles and breeding behaviour of female leopards, Lubna will have regular hormonal tests conducted by Al Bustan zoo.
There are fewer than 200 Arabian leopards remaining in the mountains of Yemen and Oman as a result of deteriorating habitats, urban expansion, hunting and a lack of prey.
Al Ain Zoo focuses on conserving wildlife and is involved in research and breeding.
The zoo also offers educational programmes and animal experiences, and provides a fun environment for the public while teaching them about endangered species.
It has partnerships with leading zoos, conservation agencies and associations including Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, San Diego Zoo, and the Sahara Conservation Fund.