Photo by Julie Larsen @WCS

In All, 80 Snow Leopard Cubs Have Been Born at the Bronx Zoo

Two snow leopard cubs are debuting at the Bronx Zoo. Snow leopards, among the world’s most elusive big cats, are rarely seen in the wild and are sometimes referred to as “the ghost of the mountains.”

The species lives in some of the harshest conditions on Earth; in high elevations in the mountains of central Asia, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Its white-gray coat is almost invisible as it blends in with the terrain of rocky, high mountains. Snow leopards have large-padded feet—natural snowshoes—and long, thick woolly tails that help with balance and with keeping warm.

At the Bronx Zoo, the cubs can be found in the Himalayan Highlands. Currently, the Bronx Zoo has 10 snow leopards.

The cubs, one male and one female, were born this summer to mother, Dariga, and father, Naltar. Naltar is the offspring of Leo who came to the Bronx Zoo in 2006 after being rescued as an orphaned cub in Pakistan. Yet to be named, the zookeepers are generating naming ideas that best match the cubs’ personalities.

WCS’s Bronx Zoo is a world leader in snow leopard care and husbandry and participates in a Species Survival Plan program, a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Bronx Zoo has had more snow leopard births—at 80—than any other zoo in North America and was the first zoo in the United States to exhibit the big cats in 1903. 

The Bronx Zoo is the flagship park of the Wildlife Conservation Society and is home to the society’s global conservation program which has a long history of snow leopard conservation in China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia.

Hiking in the hills of northern Pakistan in the 1970s, WCS Senior Conservationist George Schaller spotted a snow leopard some 150 feet away. “Wisps of clouds swirled around,” he later wrote in Stones of Silence, “transforming her into a ghost creature, part myth and part reality.”

Snow leopards are classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with an estimated minimum of 2700 to 3400 adults but possibly as many as 4700-7500 in the wild. Snow leopard populations may still be dwindling across parts of their range due to poaching, both for its skin and for traditional medicine.

The Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo, located on 265 acres of hardwood forest in Bronx, NY, opened on Nov. 8, 1899. It is world-renowned for its leadership in the areas of animal welfare, husbandry, veterinary care, education, science, and conservation. The zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is the flagship park of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which manages the world’s largest network of urban wildlife parks including the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium. Our curators and animal care staff work to save, propagate, and sustain populations of threatened and endangered species. We have educated and inspired more than 400 million visitors at our zoos and aquarium since our opening and host approximately 4 million guests at our parks each year – including about a half-million students annually. The Bronx Zoo is the largest youth employer in the borough of the Bronx, providing opportunity and helping to transform lives in one of the most under-served communities in the nation. The Bronx Zoo, the largest urban zoo in the United States, is the subject of THE ZOO, a docu-series aired worldwide on Animal Planet.

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