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.
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.