When we are slowly but surely leaving winter behind during our Midwest March, snow leopards in their natural habitat are already about a month into their spring season. This means brand new snow leopard cubs – oh, the cuteness!
Because snow leopards are native to the mountains of Central Asia, spring is a chilly time of year for them. As mothers-to-be prepare to give birth, they look for rocky shelters which they line with their fur for added warmth and comfort.
Cubs are usually born in litters of 2-3 at a time. Occasionally litters are larger, but for snow leopards, smaller is better. Finding enough food is challenging for them under normal circumstances, so the smaller the litter, the easier it’ll be for momma to feed her cubs.
Snow leopard cubs are in no hurry to leave home – they don’t venture out on their own until they’re 18-22 months old. This time at home is filled with teaching and nurturing, so that the young leopards are well-prepared when they finally do decide to exercise their independence. Since snow leopard mothers devote so much time to their young, they only mate every couple of years.
Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo is one institution working to conserve this precious endangered species. As part of this endeavor, snow leopards Helen and Tom mated to produce two sweet cubs, Gobi and Batu, in May of 2009. One is pictured below after their 3-week checkup. Click here to read more about this milestone.
Check out the video below for a heart-melting dose of roly-poly action, as the cubs explore the outdoors for the very first time. Their beautiful mother Helen supervises their romp.
When Gobi & Batu’s first birthday rolled around, their friends at the Woodland Park Zoo made sure it was extra special, complete with paper mache cakes.
At this point Gobi and Batu are about at the age where they would branch out on their own in the wild. This phase will be mirrored for them in captivity. In April, Gobi was moved to a new home at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, Kansas, to take part in a Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) – a cooperative breeding management program that will help promote genetic diversity and healthy populations. In a few months, Batu will also move – to Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. If you’re planning to be in the area later this year, stop by to welcome her to her new home! In the meantime, check the Woodland Park Zoo Blog for updates.
For more information on snow leopards, visit the Snow Leopard Trust at www.snowleopard.org.
Photos courtesy of the following:
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