A beautiful display of spots appeared on May 2 at Woodland Park Zoo when triplet Snow Leopards were born to 7-year-old mother Helen. The cubs represent the second litter for Helen and 6-year-old father Tom. Veterinarians performed a neonatal examination today on the cubs, which were confirmed as two females and a male. As you can see, the cubs have still yet to fully open their eyes. The mom and cubs are off public exhibit in a maternal den until mid-July to allow privacy for bonding and proper nursing.
“Helen was an excellent mother to the pair of cubs she gave birth to in 2009 and successfully raised. We’re very pleased to see that she’s nurturing the three cubs very well and that they appear to be progressing normally. They appear to be healthy, their eyes are just now opening and their bellies were full of milk, indicating that they are nursing,” said zoo Director of Animal Health Dr. Darin Collins. The cubs currently weigh between 2.1 and 2.4 pounds.
Snow Leopards are an endangered species. The Snow Leopard is a moderately large cat native to the high mountain ranges of Central Asia and Russia, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. Snow Leopard scientists estimate as few as 3,500 remain in the wild.
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Woodland Park Zoo has a long history of caring for Snow Leopards and conserving them in the wild, since the zoo’s first Snow Leopards arrived in 1972 from the USSR. Under the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP), 34 cubs have born at the zoo and have helped diversify the genetic pool of the managed population. “This is a significant birth for Snow Leopards in zoos in North America and around the world, and marks the first recorded birth this year for the SSP. By virtue of their majestic beauty, they are conservation ambassadors for their species in the wild. These cubs in the future will become valuable in inspiring people to learn more about how to save this endangered cat that is struggling to survive in its range countries,” said Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, a curator at Woodland Park Zoo.
As part of Woodland Park Zoo’s partnership with 36 field conservation projects around the world, the zoo partners with the Snow Leopard Trust. The Trust was created in 1981 by the late Woodland Park Zoo staff member Helen Freeman, the namesake of the mother of the newborn cubs. Through innovative programs, effective partnerships, and the latest science, the SLT is saving these endangered cats and improving the lives of people who live in the Snow Leopard countries of Central Asia. Visit http://www.snowleopard.org/ for information about the SLT.