The Snow Leopard cub at Milwaukee County Zoo has been busy playing with new toys and developing his skills! Patrons of the zoo are able to purchase toys and items from a wish list. The toys encourage behavior similar to what is seen in the wild, and they provide enrichment the growing zoo babies need to stimulate their minds and bodies.
The cub, who arrived June 1, is the first Snow Leopard born at the zoo in fourteen years! His mother, “Tomiris”, at 14-years-old, is the oldest first time Snow Leopard mom in captivity. The cub’s father is 15-year-old “Genghis”. Yet to be named, the first-born of Tomiris will be revealed to the public sometime in the near future.
Snow Leopards are native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. They are currently listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, and their numbers in the wild are, unfortunately, decreasing. There are estimated to be only 3,500 to 7,000 in the wild. They have already disappeared completely from habitats where they formerly lived, such as parts of Mongolia. The major threats to the Snow Leopard in the wild include prey depletion, illegal trade, and lack of conservation capacity and awareness in their native areas.
According to the IUCN, “The general lack of awareness at both local and national levels for the need to conserve wildlife, and especially predators, further hinders conservation efforts. Up to a third of the Snow Leopard’s range falls along politically sensitive international borders, complicating trans-boundary conservation initiatives. Military conflict is taking place across much of the Snow Leopard's range, causing immense damage to wildlife through direct loss of species and destruction of habitat, losses to landmines, the demands of displaced peoples for food and fuel, and the encouragement of trade in wildlife”.