Photo Credit: Denver Zoo
Though summer has just begun, the Denver Zoo just received a wintery resident, a baby Snow Leopard. Born on May 13th, the zoo's newest resident, a female cub, has been named Misha.
For now, visitors will have to wait to catch a glimpse of Misha as she remains in her mother's den, as she would in the wild, until she gets a little bigger. Once her mother determines it is time for Misha to explore the world, they will venture out together for all to see.
While Misha's mother Natasha is an experienced three time mother (she had offspring in 2005, 2007 & 2008), it is the first offspring for her father Himal. The pair were brought together in Denver in 2010 per a recommendation by the Association of Zoos & Aquarium's Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan with the hopes that they would bear offspring. The pair have valuable genetics, and their reproduction together is a huge boost the captive Snow Leopard population.
Snow Leopards are native to the mountains of central Asia and the Himalayas. They live at high elevations, above the tree line, and have a number of adaptations to survive in this harsh environment. They possess a very well-developed chest, short, powerful limbs, and a long thing tail that help them navigate the steep rocky terrain. Their large paws act as snowshoes, helping them walk along the snowy mountaintops.
Snow Leopards are classified as "endangered" by the IUCN. With a population estimated to be between 2,000 and 7,000 and dropping quickly due to poaching for their fur and habitat loss, every birth is a victory in this species' fight for survival.