The Memphis Zoo is closing out a purr-fect summer with a major announcement. The first Snow Leopard birth in more than a decade occured at the Memphis Zoo on July 19, helping a highly endangered animal make a comeback.
The cub, a male, was born to parents "Ateri" and "Darhan." Ateri, a first-time mother, is nursing the cub behind the scenes. The public will be invited to vote on their favorite of seven pre-chosen names.
"Ateri is a great mother," says Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs. "This was her first cub, and everything is going smoothly."
On September 3, Memphis Zoo veterinarians performed the first neonatal exam on the cub. He was declared to be in excellent health, and mother and baby are doing fine.
Breeding season for Snow Leopards is usually January through late March. Gestation is usually between 90-100 days. The male cub was born after 98 days. Usually, there are two or three cubs, but one is not unusual for a first litter.
Snow Leopard cubs are usually darker than their parents. Their markings are much more defined. This coloring is paramount to their ability to successfully camouflage themselves in their natural habitat. Found throughout Central Asia, they are efficient hunters. While exact numbers are unknown, it is estimated there are only 4,080-6,590 Snow Leopards remaining in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
About the Memphis Zoo Snow Leopards
The Memphis Zoo has had Snow Leopards in its collection since 1971. They could originally be seen in the Carnivora House, now the Cat House Café, before being moved, with the rest of the big cats, to The Commercial Appeal Cat Country in 1993.
The Zoo is now home to four Snow Leopards, including the new cub and his parents. Ateri was born in June 2010 at the Tulsa Zoo. Darhan was born in May 2009 at Adirondack Animal Land in Albany, New York.
Snow Leopards are usually solitary creatures, but Ateri and Darhan are quite compatible, and enjoy each other's company.
"They are a very good pair," says Herb Roberts, Curator of Cat Country. "They're young cats, and they have a lot of play and exuberance in them. Those two cats enrich each other's lives more than we could ever do for them."