Zoo mourns Borris, one of world's oldest, rarest big cats

Animal-care staff will remember 19-year-old Amur leopard's 'one-of-a-kind' spirit

Borris, a beloved Amur leopard who was one of the oldest of his extremely rare subspecies, was humanely euthanized at the Oregon Zoo yesterday after a decline related to his advanced age, caregivers said.

"With only around 300 Amur leopards left on the entire planet, each passing is keenly felt," said Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's Amur cat area. "But this one is especially tough. We know that ultimately the pain of losing Borris will pale beside the joy of having had him in our lives. But this one is going to take a while. He was one-of-a-kind."

At 19, Borris was the second-oldest Amur leopard in any facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — and one of the oldest in the world. In recent months, as his flexibility deteriorated, caregivers had been using a bamboo backscratcher to help the geriatric cat groom himself.

Cutting described Borris as "simply a treasure" and said will be remembered for "his friendly temperament and goofy personality."

He was born May 5, 1999, and came to Portland in 2010 from the Miller Park Zoo in Illinois, on a recommendation from the AZA's Species Survival Plan for Amur leopards. He was popular with zoo visitors and staff — forming especially strong bonds with keepers, several of whom had worked with Borris since his arrival here.

In Portland, Borris joined the Oregon Zoo's female leopard, Kia. Amur leopards are solitary animals for the most part, but the pair got along well.

"Borris was hand-raised and came to us after several unsuccessful attempts to introduce him to other cats," Cutting said. "But Kia quickly told him what was what, and they lived comfortably together for many years. She was the only female who ever put Borris in his place enough to live peaceably, and sometimes they would even play together."

Amur leopards are at extreme risk of extinction, with only around 100 believed to remain in the wild. With so few animals available to breed, genetic variation is dangerously low. Accredited zoos are participating in coordinated breeding programs to help preserve these critically endangered cats, and a plan has been approved to reintroduce zoo-bred Amur leopards in a portion of their native habitat.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

Media contact: 

Hova Najarian | 503-220-5714 | hova.najarian@oregonzoo.org

Kelsey Wallace | 503-220-5754 | kelsey.wallace@oregonzoo.org