Zoo officials say the Cat Canyon-Small Cat Reproduction Center project in Warren County, Ohio, will be the "first dedicated breeding facility for endangered small cats at any North American zoo," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Small cats species in the wild weigh less than 50 pounds as adults and face extinction in the wild as their larger cousins, zoo officials said. Twenty-eight of the world's 36 wild cat species are considered small.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's program will attempt to breed the most genetically valuable individuals, with cats from zoos all over North America being sent to the off-zoo facility, officials said. Resulting offspring will be sent to the zoo grounds for public viewing.
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