Misha the Snow Leopard, born on May 13, made her public debut this week at the Denver Zoo.
For the last two months, Misha and her mother Natasha have been bonding behind the scenes. The curious cub is learning to climb, jump, and pounce under the watchful eye of her mother. As the only cub in her litter, Misha has been getting all the milk she wants and has gained nearly four pounds since her birth, now tipping the scales at about five pounds. As a full grown adult, she could weigh around 75 pounds.
Natasha and her mate Himal were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Although this is Himal’s first cub, Natasha is an experienced mother, having given birth to cubs in 2005, 2007, and 2008.
Snow Leopards are native to mountainous areas above the tree line in central Asia and in the Himalayan regions of Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. Snow Leopards are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and their numbers are decreasing. Major threats to their survival include poaching for their fur, bones and other body parts, loss of habitat, and decreasing availability of prey animals. Currently, their wild population is estimated at between 2,000 and 7,000 individuals.