Two female snow leopard cubs have been born at the Brookfield Zoo. Mother Sarani gave birth to the cubs on June 16 in an off display den.
The father of the cubs is a 5 year old male called Sabu who has lived at the zoo since October 2011 when he arrived from the Cape May County Park & Zoo in New Jersey. Sarani is 4 years old and arrived at the same time from Tautphaus Park Zoo in Idaho.
This is their second pair following the birth of Everest in 2013. The breeding comes as a result of a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). This co-operative breeding program manages the 145 snow leopards which live at 63 accredited zoos so that their genetic diversity remains strong.
Brookfield Zoo has a long history with snow leopards having exhibited them since 1936.
It is expected that the cubs will be ready to make their debut come mid-October. For the time being they off exhibit bonding with their mother with access to the outdoor exhibit also available to them.
Breeding snow leopards is important as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists them as endangered. Currently it is estimated that just 4,000-6,500 snow leopards remain in Asia’s central mountainous regions. These animals can be found in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Here they are persecuted for killing livestock poached for medicinal use and have suffered as their prey base is depleted.
Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society