It’s a girl! Actually, two of them.
Stone Zoo announced Thursday the birth of two female snow leopard cubs.
The cubs, which began to open their blue eyes a few weeks ago, were born on May 16 to Kira, a 9-year-old female snow leopard. This is Kira’s first litter of cubs, and the first at Stone Zoo since 2005. They need names and you can help, but more on that later.
The cubs, who currently weigh 2.3 pounds and 2.8 pounds, are expected to make their exhibit debut within the Himalayan Highlands later this summer. Since their birth, they have been bonding with their mother in their nest box behind the scenes. Newborn cubs are entirely dependent on their mothers and in the wild do not leave the protection of their dens until about three months of age. Staff has been closely monitoring the cubs through a camera attached to the nest box.
“Kira is a very calm and attentive mother, and the cubs are starting to move around more when they are not nursing,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “We are incredibly excited to share the news of these cubs, which contributes to the preservation of their species, and look forward to the day when they make their exhibit debut.”
Zoo New England is a longtime participant in the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan, which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs help to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered, and enhance conservation of these species in the wild. The births are the result of a recommended breeding between Kira and Himal, a male snow leopard who arrived from the Denver Zoo last December. Sadly, a third cub, who was smaller than its siblings and appeared to have health issues, died a few days after birth.
Zoo New England is committed to the preservation of this species and is a longstanding member of the Snow Leopard Trust’s Natural Partnership Program (NPP), contributing funds to support research and programs aimed at protecting snow leopards and their natural habitat.
With their thick, cream-colored coats and gray-black spots, snow leopards camouflage so well within their rocky habitat high in the Himalayas that they are known as the “ghosts of the mountains.” With the ability to leap down heights of 60 feet, snow leopards are said to be the most agile of the “big cats.”
Remember, we said the cubs need names.
The naming rights for the snow leopard cubs are being auctioned off as part of Stone Zoo’s annual A Wild Affair on Bidding for Good. All proceeds support the continued operation and growth of Stone Zoo, its education and conservation programs.
Photo courtesy Zoo New England