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Image: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo Mourn Passing of Snow Leopard, Dhirin

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: January 19, 2023 2:20 pm

Woodland Park Zoo are mourning the passing of 17 year old snow leopard, Dhirin following the worsening effects of kidney failure and respiratory issues. Animal health staff at the Woodland Park Zoo made the decision to humanely euthanize the aging cat as his quality of life showed significant declines.

Dhirin achieved the average life expectancy for a snow leopard in captivity which is listed as 17-19 years. The Snow Leopard Trust report that life is harder for a wild snow leopard and they often don't live much past 12 years old.

According to Dr. Tim Storms, director of animal health at Woodland Park Zoo, the geriatric snow leopard had been diagnosed with renal disease more than a year ago, and the animal health team had been tracking the progression with trained blood collection and urinalyses. “In the last two weeks Dhirin had worsened quite dramatically, with changes in his respiratory pattern, especially over the last several days which precipitated a decision to humanely euthanize him,” said Storms.


Woodland Park Zoo has been home to Dhirin since 2014 when he arrived from the Oklahoma City Zoo. His arrival was recommended by the snow leopard Species Survival Plan. As part of this program he was matched with female, Helen and they welcomed a son, Aibek. Aibek and Helen remain at Woodland Park Zoo with another female Marai.

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As part of the animal health teams standard procedure a post mortem will occur to determine any factors which may have contributed to the decline of Dhirin.

“It’s always difficult and sad saying goodbye to the animals in our care. Dhirin was known to be calm with a sweet, sometimes aloof, very cat-like personality,” said Pat Owen, an animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “We’re going to miss this beautiful snow leopard—Dhirin was truly an ambassador for his cousins in their natural range.”

Woodland Park Zoo first welcomed snow leopards in 1972 from the USSR. As part of the Species Survival Plan (a managed effort to breed healthy populations of captive animals), 35 cubs have been born at the zoo.

Snow leopards occur naturally in Central Asia and Russia, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. They are endangered with between 3,920 and 6,390.

If you are looking to support snow leopards Woodland Park Zoo recommend the Snow Leopard Trust, created in 1981 by late Woodland Park Zoo staff member Helen Freeman, who snow leopard Helen is named for. The trust work to both save snow leopards and improve the lives of people living in their range.

More on Snow Leopards!

A big cat that cannot roar? That's the snow leopard. So how do they communicate instead? Find out with our fact file.

Our Favourite Snow Leopard Fact!

The wide, broad feet of the snow leopard are covered with fur which helps to keep them warm as they make their way across the snow covered floor of their mountain home.

Image: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

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