On May 14, for the first time in its history, Snow Leopard cubs were born at the Akron Zoo in Ohio. The two males are healthy and thriving indoors in a cubbing area with their mother Shanti. Born weighing about 2 pounds, at six weeks old the cubs weigh all of six pounds and their eyes have opened. They are able to walk and are starting to climb too.
The Animal Care Staff suspected Shanti was pregnant in March and began watching her closely. In the evening of May 13 they started noticing changes in her behavior and began monitoring her via cameras set up indoors at her exhibit for the impending birth. The first cub was born at 4 a.m. on May 14 and the second at 5:51 a.m. Shanti, a first time mom, has been very attentive to the cubs, successfully caring for them on her own. As in the wild their father, Roscoe, does not participate in the rearing process. He will never have direct contact with the cubs.
Snow Leopards are an endangered species primarily due to loss of habitat, illegal poaching for their pelts and body parts and killings by local herders when one has preyed on their livestock. There are only 155 Snow Leopards in the SSP (Species Survival Plan) in the U.S. and there are believed to be as few as 4,000 left in the wild. Only nine cubs have been born at zoos this year as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums SSP.
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Snow leopards cannot roar. Instead of roaring, the snow leopard makes noises like hissing, mewing, chuffing, growling and wailing. Snow leopards can leap farther than any other cat, reaching distances of well over forty feet in a single bound.