Tiny leopard cat emerges into sunshine but no zoo visitors to see him

A zookeeper holds a 7-week-old leopard cub at Debrecen Zoo, Hungary, April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

DEBRECEN, Hungary (Reuters) – A seven-week-old leopard cat born in a Hungarian zoo was allowed out for the first time on Friday to enjoy the spring sunshine but he will have to wait a while before he can meet visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The leopard cat is a small wild cat which owes its name to the spotted coat it shares with its much bigger cousin. Found in southeast Asia, Nepal and China, it feeds mostly on small rodents and is roughly the size of the domestic cat.

The Debrecen Zoo in eastern Hungary joined a leopard cat breeding programme in 2017 which aims to raise the number of leopard cats in European zoos from 15 to 50.

The zoo, which has 150,000 visitors per year, had to close on March 17 as Hungary imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. It is now selling tickets online in advance, valid for a year, to survive the crisis.

The revenues will help feed the animals as the zoo now has enough feed for only two months.

The tiny leopard cat does not have a name yet and the zoo has asked visitors online to suggest names.

Debrecen Zoo director Sandor Gergely Nagy said some of the animals may be missing their visitors as much as the public misses seeing them.

“I think not only us but also the animals feel that our life has changed,” he said. “There are species, especially mammals such as monkeys, which show they are missing the visitors… They need more care and attention from their carers now.”

Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo and Balazs Kaufmann; Editing by Gareth Jones

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