Introducing Dudley Zoological Gardens' newest arrival: an eight-week-old Snow Leopard cub! The cub is the first Snow Leopard to be born at the zoo in 12 years. The youngster, who was born on May 2, has been nicknamed Cub X by keepers until they confirm its sex. The baby made its public debut recently and delighted visitors with five-minute play-arounds with mom, Nanga, aged four. Dad is three-year-old Margaash. Assistant Curator Richard Brown said, "Nanga is a first-time mum so it's such a relief that they have bonded well. You can see the baby developing every day, it's wonderful to watch, and already it seems quite a feisty little cub."
Photographer Tal Choha said, "The youngster's routine at the moment is to sleep for two hours, play for five minutes, sleep for two hours, then play for another five minutes, so I had to make sure I got there in time for those crucial five minutes!" Sneak a peek at the cub's playtime in the video below. (Spoiler: there's some tail-chasing action ahead!)
Following a 90-100 day gestation, Snow Leopard cubs are born with full black spots which turn into the characteristic rosette pattern as they grow older. Offspring remain with their mother until they mature at 18-22 months. Adults can weigh 55 to 165 pounds (25-75 kg).
Snow Leopards originate from Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, where they inhabit remote scree slopes and forests between altitudes of about 6,000 to 18,000 feet (1,800 to 5,500 m). They are listed as Threatened on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. According to the IUCN, main causes of the Snow Leopard's decline include habitat loss, poaching, and persecution, as conflict arises when the predatory cats take livestock.