Sri Lankan Leopards join National Zoo & Aquarium

Shelley Russell, Wildlife Manager


The National Zoo & Aquarium, Canberra, are privileged to have joined the EAZA European Association of Zoos and Aquaria Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) program in 2019. Our first arrival was an experienced dam from France named Yakalla; she is now 10.5 years old and has a shy personality. Then came our handsome male Ankesh, now 5 years old, who arrived from the North of Spain. He is much more confident as he lived with his parents.

Ankesh and Yakalla were slowly introduced after 10 months of living next to each other and sharing the main habitat. The leopard habitat also has an outdoor den. Yakalla would venture out in the habitat at night while Ankesh enjoyed the daylight hours to explore.  The slow introduction was cautious both to ensure the two would get along and manage biosecurity.  Once introduced, it was clear who was in charge, but Ankesh knew how to behave around his bossy friend after living with his parents his entire life.  They quickly became inseparable.


Leopards at National Zoo and Aquarium, Canberra


Leopards at National Zoo and Aquarium, Canberra


Leopards at National Zoo and Aquarium, Canberra


Late afternoon on Christmas Eve 2020, Yakalla gave birth to two healthy boys after building her nest the night before. Asanka and Chatura have been a highlight for the zoo staff and visitors and dad was reintroduced to the family for periods after three months and full time shortly afterwards.  Again, his raising with his parents has allowed for the family to live together.

Sri Lankan Leopards are listed as Endangered (IUCN). They are Sri Lanka’s only apex predator and are endemic to Sri Lanka.  Hunting became a popular sport among wealthy British people on the island and as a result, most species in Sri Lanka are endangered.  Although now illegal, poaching and human-leopard conflict is the major cause for the declining population, now approximately only 1,000 animals.

Although a nocturnal species, Ankesh and the boys are almost always out in the large naturalistic enclosure.