My friend Gigi Allianic at the Woodland Park Zoo writes:
A display of beautiful spots appeared on May 2 at the 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.
As part of the exemplary animal care and health program for the thousand-plus animals at the zoo, veterinarians performed a neonatal examination on the cubs, which were confirmed as two females and a male.
The mom and cubs are off public exhibit in a maternal den to allow bonding and proper nursing. The zoo anticipates putting the cubs on public exhibit in mid-July.
“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. Cubs are born helpless, with their eyes closed, and rely for several weeks on their mothers for nutrition. To minimize disturbance, staff have minimal physical contact with the new family and are monitoring mother and cubs via a web cam. Since snow leopards are solitary animals in the wild, the father has been separated and is on public exhibit in the snow leopard exhibit adjacent to Australasia.
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.
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.
(Thanks, Gigi! Another example of good stewardship from the good folks at Woodland Park Zoo)