Snow Leopard

Attack of the Snow Leopard Cub!

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A Snow Leopard cub born this summer at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo has made its public debut.

The female cub, who has not yet been named, plays and wrestles with her mother, K2, in the photos and video below. Baby animals develop important skills through play, and K2 is proving to be a patient teacher even when her cub is in “attack mode.”

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Julie Larsen Maher_8053_Snow Leopard Cub_HIM_BZ_09 07 17 Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Mayer/WCS

The cub is the second-generation offspring of Leo – a Snow Leopard who was rescued as a young orphaned cub after being found in the high mountains of northern Pakistan in 2005. Leo was brought to the Bronx Zoo in 2006 as part of a historic collaboration between WCS and the U.S. and Pakistani governments.

The cub’s father, Naltar, was sired by Leo in 2013.

“This Snow Leopard cub is special not only because it is an ambassador for its species, but because of its lineage," said Dr. Patrick Thomas, WCS Vice President and General Curator, and Bronx Zoo Associate Director who was part of the delegation who brought Leo from Pakistan. “Leo and his descendants, including this cub, will help bolster the health and genetics of the Snow Leopard population in AZA-accredited zoos.”

More than 70 cubs have been born at the Bronx Zoo – more the than any other zoo in North America – and the Bronx was the first zoo in the United States to exhibit the species in 1903. The Bronx Zoo breeds Snow Leopards as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). 

Snow Leopards are native to remote mountains of Central Asia and parts of China, Mongolia, Russia, India and Bhutan. WCS has worked for decades on Snow Leopard conservation programs in the field with current projects in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and western China. Past projects have also included work with Snow Leopards in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.

In Pakistan, WCS has been implementing a community-based conservation program since 1997 to help protect the Snow Leopard and other wildlife. The program includes education, training, and institution building for community resource management. WCS has helped create over 60 natural resource committees and trained over 100 community rangers to monitor Snow Leopards and other wildlife and stop deforestation and poaching that threatens these species and local livelihoods.

As a result of ongoing conservation efforts, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently reclassified Snow Leopards from Endangered to Threatened. The species’ survival is still at risk and continues to face threats that stem from human activities such as habitat loss and illegal killings.

See more photos of the playful cub below.

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Snow Leopard Cub Takes It Outside

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When Woodland Park Zoo keepers opened the door allowing Aibek, a 2-month-old Snow Leopard, to leave the maternity den for the first time, the cub zipped outside so fast that he beat his mom into the outdoor habitat.

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2017_09_19 Aibek snow leopard 900-1wmPhoto Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Aibek immediately began pouncing, climbing, and stealthily sneaking around the enclosure amid a light drizzling rain. He climbed to the top of the habitat’s rocky hill and promptly found a spot that was nearly out of sight to the crowd that had gathered to greet him – typical of Snow Leopards, which are elusive in the wild, too.

You first met Aibek, who was born July 6, on ZooBorns when he was just a few weeks old. Like all wild Snow Leopards, he spent the first two months of his life snuggled in a cozy den with his mother, feeding exclusively on her milk. While mom Helen and her cub were bonding in the den, keepers were able to conduct occasional wellness checks and observed that Helen was providing excellent care for her cub. Now a healthy 10 pounds, Aibek has started eating meat but still nurses from his mom.

Aibek is the first single cub to be born at the zoo. Snow Leopards typically have litters of two or three cubs, so keepers expected Aibek to be rather timid since he had no siblings to wrestle and play with. But so far, Aibek has demonstrated confidence as he explores the outdoors, and Helen is an experienced mother who knows how to keep her cub safe.

Snow Leopards are listed as a Vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These cats live in the high mountain ranges of Russia and several Central Asian nations, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. According to the Snow Leopard Trust, the wild population of Snow Leopards is estimated to be between 3,920 and 6,390 individuals.

More photos and info below!

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Snow Leopard Siblings Debut at L.A. Zoo

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The Los Angeles Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of two endangered Snow Leopard cubs!

A male and female were born on May 12 and May 13 to a three-year-old mother, Georgina, and a five-year-old father, Fred. The cubs are the first offspring for the adults, who were paired together in July 2015 as a part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The new siblings spent several months behind the scenes bonding with their mother and getting to know the animal care staff. At four months old, the cubs have now gained enough strength and coordination to navigate their outdoor habitat and make their public debut.

“We’re so excited to welcome these cubs,” said Stephanie Zielinski, animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. “There is less known about these beautiful cats than most of the other large cat species due to the extreme habitat Snow Leopards have evolved to live in the wild. This is why it’s such an honor to be able to educate the public and give them the opportunity to observe this elusive species here in Los Angeles.”

The Zoo’s animal care staff began working with the cubs early on, separating the mom for short amounts of time to allow her rest and to help her grow accustomed to animal care staff being around her young. These interactions with the cubs helped animal care staff conduct regular exams, give vaccinations, and eventually lead to an easier transition when introducing the cubs to the outdoor habitat.

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4_Snow Leopard Cub Male by Jamie PhamPhoto Credits: Los Angeles Zoo / Tad Motoyama (Images: 1,2,5) / Jamie Pham (3,4,6,7)

Snow Leopards in the wild are found in unforgiving environments in the cold, high mountains of Central Asia throughout 12 countries. The habitats range from alpine meadows to treeless, rocky mountains. Due to the high altitudes of its habitat, the animal has evolved to have a large nasal cavity to breathe the thin air and can retain oxygen well. The cats have a thick fur, which allows them to keep warm, and a long tail they can wrap around themselves for added warmth and protection for their ears and face. Their paws have hair cushions that act as snowshoes and also provide protection from sharp rocks. Smoky gray and blurred black markings on the cat’s pale gray or cream-colored coat provide them with handy camouflage in the mountains. Snow Leopards can tolerate extreme temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit down to 40 degrees below zero.

While Snow Leopards have perfectly adapted to the cold, barren landscape of their high-altitude home, human threats have created an uncertain future for the cats. Habitat destruction, prey base depletion, illegal trade, poaching, and conflict with the local people have led to a significant decline with only an estimated population of between 2,000 to 7,000 Snow Leopards left in the wild.

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Meet Kitai the Endangered Snow Leopard Cub

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A blue-eyed bundle of fluff arrived at Tierpark Berlin on June 13: Kitai the Snow Leopard cub!

Kitai was born to parents Maya and Bataar, both six years old. This is their third litter together.

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The now two-month-old cub recently had a health check, at which he received vaccinations and an ID chip. The vaccinations are the same as all housecats receive for protection against distemper and other feline diseases.

Kitai’s name was chosen from among more than 1,000 suggestions made by zoo fans. The word “Kitai” or “Catai” is a variation of  “Cathay,” which is what China was called during the times of Marco Polo. Snow Leopards are found in the mountains of Central Asia. The largest population resides in China.

At eight weeks old, Kitai weighed about eight pounds. As an adult, he may weigh 100-150 pounds. For now, Kitai spends nearly all his time with Maya in their den, but last week the staff opened the door into the main exhibit to give mother and son the chance to explore outdoors. It is completely up to Kitai and Maya to decide if and when they go outside.

Snow Leopards are among the most endangered of all big Cats. Recent data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that there are between 4,000-6,500 mature Snow Leopards spread across 12 Asian nations. A Global Snow Leopard Forum has been established to address the threats facing Snow Leopards, which include depletion of prey, illegal trade, and conflict with people.

Zoo Berlin is active in protecting Snow Leopards, and a total of 13 cubs have been born there in the last 20 years.

See more photos of Kitai below.

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Sweet Snow Leopard Cub Born at Woodland Park Zoo

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On July 6, a 12-year-old Snow Leopard named Helen gave birth to a male cub at Woodland Park Zoo.

The new cub is the first offspring for mom and her 12-year-old mate, Dhirin (pronounced as dir-in). Helen has given birth to two previous litters, with a different mate.

The mom and cub are currently in an off-view maternity den, to allow bonding and proper nursing, in a quieter setting. Zoo staff has been monitoring the mother and cub through a closed-circuit system to watch for normal behaviors.

The Zoo anticipates putting the cub and mom in the outdoor exhibit in late September. Woodland Park Zoo will be providing updates about the cub and will host a public naming via their blog and Facebook page.

As part of the exemplary animal care and health program for the Zoo’s thousand-plus animals, animal health staff performed a neonatal exam on July 20, the first time the newborn cub was handled. At that time, the cub weighed 2.6 pounds.

“Our overall assessment is the cub appears to be healthy. His eyelids are beginning to open—one eye is already open and one remains closed—the eyelids normally open around two weeks. His belly was full of milk, which means the cub is nursing and being nourished,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health.

Veterinarians will perform health check-ups every couple of weeks for weight monitoring, vaccinations, and critical blood and fecal sampling.

“Helen’s track record of providing excellent maternal skills to her past cubs continues with this cub. She’s nurturing her cub very well, they’re bonding and the cub appears to be progressing normally,” said Deanna DeBo, an animal collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo.

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4_2017_07_20 snow leopard kitten-5wmPhoto Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

The cub’s parents, Helen and Dhirin, were paired under the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP), a conservation breeding program across accredited zoos to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of Snow Leopards. Helen has lived at Woodland Park Zoo since 2008, and Dhirin arrived from Oklahoma City Zoo in 2014.

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Snow Leopard Cubs vs. Christmas Tree

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A trio of endangered eight-month-old Snow Leopard cubs at the Tulsa Zoo got early Christmas presents from their keepers – including a life-sized cardboard Christmas tree.  In a matter of minutes, the curious cubs felled the tree, then went on to explore giant candy canes, garlands, and more. 

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IMG_2760Photo Credit:  Ruth Holland/Tulsa Zoo

All of these items are enrichment for the cats.  Enrichment provides novel smells, textures, tastes, or play items to stimulate animals physically and mentally.  

Born May 3, the cubs’ birth was recommended by the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which manages rare species to maintain high genetic diversity. Sherab, their mother, takes excellent care of her cubs.

Named Kavi, Amir, and Zahra, the cubs have experienced some health challenges since birth.  All three were born with congenital abnormalities in their eyelids, which resulted in incomplete eyelid formation.  These abnormalities left their eyes more vulnerable to trauma or other damage. Eyelid abnormalities affect domestic and exotic felines, including Snow Leopards. To correct these abnormalities, the zoo enlisted the help of a veterinary ophthalmologist who performed corrective surgeries to give the cubs more functional eyelids. The surgeries were a success, so each cub now has properly functioning eyelids. To ensure their safety and wellbeing, Kavi, Amir and Zahra remained behind-the-scenes with mom, Sherab, for their first few months as they received constant care and monitoring.

Native to Central Asia’s mountainous areas from Afghanistan to Kazakstan and Russia to northern India and China, Snow Leopards are listed as endangered due to poaching and habitat loss.


“It’s the Great Pumpkin…!”

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Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns are indicative of the fall season…and Halloween.

Zoo Keepers work hard to keep their animals healthy and happy. Enrichment toys and activities are an important tool that Keepers utilize to help in that pursuit. Enrichment items encourage natural behavior and stimulate the senses…and what could be more stimulating, this time of year, than celebrating by tearing into a bright orange pumpkin!

Happy Halloween from ZooBorns!

2_Red pandas Jung and Nima get into the Halloween spirit at Chester Zoo on Pumpkin Day

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Image 1: (Lynx) Tierpark Hellabrunn / Marc Muller

Image 2: “Red Pandas, Jung and Nima, get into the Halloween spirit”/ Chester Zoo

Image 3: (Snow leopard) Woodland Park Zoo

Image 4: (Amur Tiger) Woburn Safari Park

Image 5: Piglets-in-a-pumpkin/ Tierpark Berlin

Image 6: “Andean Bear, Bernie, tucks into honey-coated treats”/ Chester Zoo

Image 7: “Black Jaguar, Goshi, enjoys and early treat”/ Chester Zoo

Images 8, 9: Elephant Pumpkin Stomp/ Denver Zoo

Image 10: (Chimpanzee)/ Detroit Zoo/ Jennie Miller

Image 11: (Bison)/ Detroit Zoo/ Jennie Miller

Image 12: (Giraffe “Mpenzi”)/ Detroit Zoo/ Jennie Miller

Image 13: (Hippo)/ Woodland Park Zoo/ Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Image 14: (Tiger)/ Woodland Park Zoo/ Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Image 15: (Maned Wolf)/ Woodland Park Zoo/ Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

More adorable Halloween pics, below the fold!

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Snow Leopard Cubs Pick Their Own Names

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The three Snow Leopard cubs, born March 5 at the Akron Zoo, made their first public appearance on June 3, 2016.

The cubs were also recently allowed to pick their own names! The two males are now named: Layan, (short for Himalayan Mountains), and Altai (named after the Altai Mountains). Snow Leopards are indigenous to both mountain ranges. The female cub is named Asha, which means “Hope” in Sanskrit.

The zoo had narrowed down the names to six possible choices and wrote each name on an enrichment item container. The six containers were placed in the Snow Leopard exhibit. The cubs were then released into the exhibit area and allowed to approach the toys. The cubs went to the enrichment items with ‘Layan’, ‘Altai’ and ‘Asha’ first, thus picking their own names. The people who submitted the winning names will be getting free admission to the zoo and a Snow Leopard prize pack.

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4_13416919_10153693677865866_5542965812854535470_oPhoto Credits: Akron Zoo

The cubs are 13 weeks old and weigh about 10-11 pounds. They will be on exhibit daily with their mother, Shanti, from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. As the cubs grow and become more comfortable with their surroundings they will be on exhibit for longer periods of time. When the cubs are not on exhibit, their father, Roscoe, will be outside in the exhibit.

This is the third litter for mom Shanti, but her first set of triplets. The triplets are also a first for Akron Zoo.

The Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) is classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization.

A leading Snow Leopard conservation organization, the Snow Leopard Trust, estimates population numbers of this elusive cat to be between 4,000 and 6,500 remaining in the wild. They inhabit high, rugged mountainous regions of central Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, China, Mongolia, and Russia. Their numbers are declining due to human influence, such as poaching for medicinal markets and hides, depletion of their prey base, retribution killing following livestock losses, residential and commercial development, and civil unrest.

Snow Leopards' long, thick fur not only keeps them warm in the cold climates of the mountainous regions they inhabit, but also helps camouflage them in their environment, allowing them to sneak up on their prey. A 40-inch-long tail aids Snow Leopards in balancing while navigating rocky terrain, and they wrap it around them to keep warm at night. Their large paws are covered with a cushion of hair that increases surface area and acts like insulating snow shoes.

Snow Leopards make sounds like other big cats, but they cannot roar. Instead, they make a sound called a “chuff.” They are solitary animals, although a male and female Snow Leopard may be seen during mating season or a female with her young cubs before they venture out on their own at about 2 years of age.

The species has a gestation period of 90 to 100 days. Offspring are fully weaned at about ten weeks of age but will remain with their mother until they become independent at around 18-22 months.

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Snow Leopard Triplets Hit the Spot

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For the first time in Akron Zoo’s history, a set of Snow Leopard triplets was born at the zoo.  The three cubs, one female and two males, were born March 5, 2016 and remain in a private cubbing area with their mother Shanti until late May or early June.
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This is the third litter for mom Shanti, but her first set of triplets.  At birth, the cubs weighed about one pound each, but they are developing right on schedule.  At two weeks, they opened their eyes, and by four weeks, they had become mobile and started exploring the den.  At about seven weeks, the trio began playing and climbing, and by eight weeks old they started tasting meat.

Snow Leopard breeding in accredited zoos is managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). These cubs mark the first Snow Leopards born in the United States at an AZA accredited zoo this year.  Managed breeding helps maintain genetic diversity within the zoo-dwelling population.

As in the wild, the cubs’ father, Roscoe, does not participate in the rearing process and will not have direct contact with the cubs.

Listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Snow Leopards are threatened by loss of habitat in their native Himalayan Mountains, and by illegal hunting for their pelts and body parts.  Snow Leopards are sometimes killed by local herders when these cats prey on livestock. There are 153 Snow Leopards in the SSP in the United States, and there are believed to be as few as 4,000 left in the wild.

See more photos of the cubs below.

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Snow Leopard Sisters Debut at Brookfield Zoo

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Two 4-month-old Snow Leopard sisters, named Malaya and Daania, made their public debut October 7 at Brookfield Zoo. The highlight of the ‘debut’ was the chance to explore their outdoor habitat with four-year-old mom, Sarani. 

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4_Brookfield Snow Leopard girlsPhoto Credits: Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society

The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, happily announced the birth of the two Snow Leopard cubs on June 16. Until now, the girls and their mom have been safe and secure in their behind-the-scenes den.

Mom, Sarani, and her five-year-old mate, Sabu, arrived at Brookfield Zoo in October 2011 from Tautphaus Park Zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Cape May County Park & Zoo in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, respectively. This is the second litter of cubs for the couple. Their pairing was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP).

An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in AZA zoos and aquariums. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. There are currently about 145 Snow Leopards living in 63 institutions in North America. Brookfield Zoo has exhibited Snow Leopards since 1936.

The Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) is classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization.

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