CONSERVATION SPOTLIGHT

Saving snow leopards in the wild

Woodland Park Zoo partners with The Snow Leopard Trust to study and protect endangered snow leopards across their range countries.

Learn more about this program and how you can help.

 
 

 

 

 

 

WELCOME THE NEWEST (AND CUTEST) CONSERVATION AMBASSADORS


 

Visitor tip: Best time to view cubs

Look for the cubs and their mother on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, when they are given all-day access to their exhibit. Of course, cubs will be cubs, so we can't predict just how visible they'll be on any given day. 

They are most active during the first part of the morning and later in the afternoon as it starts to cool off, and can often be seen snoozing near mom at the top of the exhibit. Stay tuned here for any changes in their schedule.

 

About the cubs

 

Precious cubs born May 2, 2012

 

Woodland Park Zoo celebrated the birth of three precious snow leopard cubs this year, born to 7-year-old mother Helen and 6-year-old father Tom. 

Don’t hold back your squees—these cubs are absolutely adorable. But they are more than just cute. They are ambassadors for an endangered species that scientists estimate numbers as few as 3,500 in the wild.

Welcoming new conservation ambassadors into the world is always a joyous occasion, but our expert zookeepers and animal health staff had the tough realization early on that this birth was much more complicated. Our little cubs were facing health challenges.

 

Health challenges for the cubs

 

One of our precious snow leopard triplets did not survive his turbulent first weeks. 

At six weeks old, the cubs had been well cared for by their mother Helen in their behind the scenes maternal den, but each of the cubs had displayed health concerns. 

Unfortunately, we had to make the difficult but humane decision to euthanize the male cub after we determined that the little guy had multiple, severe heart defects that were causing early heart failure.

Dr. Darin Collins, the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, tells us that it’s very rare to encounter disease concerns in the zoo’s newborn animals that are too severe for modern medicine to overcome, but in this case, there were no surgical or drug treatment options available.

As you can imagine, we were heartbroken by this loss. But our dedicated zookeepers and veterinary team had the two surviving sisters to focus on, especially as the girls faced their own challenges. 

 

Sisters thrive with expert care

 

All three cubs were born with eye and eyelid defects, known as multiple ocular coloboma, and sisters Asha and Shanti are both blind in their right eye. We teamed up with Dr. Tom Sullivan, the zoo’s volunteer veterinary ophthalmologist with the Animal Eye Clinic, to perform a series of surgeries to help create more functional eyelids for the cubs.

Asha and Shanti remained behind the scenes in an offview exhibit with their mother for weeks while receiving special veterinary care for their impaired vision. Our keepers and vet staff assessed the cubs' visual function on a day-to-day basis as the pair grew and explored their surroundings.

 

Cubs now on view and doing great! 

Photo by Ryan Hawk

 

At 16 weeks old, we gave Asha and Shanti their first chance to explore their outdoor exhibit. The cubs were shy at first about entering their exhibit, but after a couple of days, they got up the courage to follow Helen out to the exhibit and have been non-stop ever since.

Our keepers and exhibit crew have worked hard to make the exhibit sight-impaired cub friendly. Both Asha and Shanti remain blind in their right eye, so provisions were made to create a safer environment for them including removing low branches and padding some of the hilly grounds with hay to make a softer landing for any playful leaps when pouncing on each other.

Watching the cubs navigate their way around the exhibit tells us a lot about how well they’re seeing their environment. It’s clear that they are aware of their surroundings and they do a great job of moving around the complexities of their space—going up and down hills, jumping over rocks and maneuvering around trees. Sometimes we see Asha move her head from side to side, which appears to be a way she compensates for her impaired vision, helping her to better take in her surroundings. Of course, their keen senses of smell and hearing and their whisker-assisted tactile abilities also help them navigate their surroundings. We have seen them grow more and more comfortable in the space over time and they are growing bolder in their adventures every day.

When is the best time to see the cubs?

Look for the cubs and their mother on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, when they are given all-day access to their exhibit. Stay tuned here for any changes in their schedule.

 

Snow leopard plush

ADOPT A SNOW LEOPARD

Celebrate the birth of Woodland Park Zoo's snow leopard cubs Asha and Shanti with a ZooParent adoption.

Become a ZooParent today!

 
 

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