Twycross Zoo in the Midlands welcomed two female snow leopard cubs in April and the pair can now be seen venturing outside for the first time.
The cubs and mother Irma spent their first months away from public view to allow them to bond together. They will continue to stay by her side for the next year or so until they are full grown. This is the third pair of cubs for mum Irma and dad Suou, who also had a boy and a girl in 2011 and two boys born in 2013.
Snow leopards are classified as endangered in the wild and it is estimated that there are only 4,000 to 6,500 animals left in their home range across the vast high mountains of Central Asia. Many are killed by local farmers because they prey on livestock but they are also hunted for their beautiful fur, which acts as camoulflage in their natural habitat.
Keepers at Twycross Zoo hope the two young girls become the next generation of breeding females in other zoos which will help the conservation of this elusive species. At the moment, however, the cubs have all the time to play, which will help them learn all they need to know about the world around them.
Miguel Bueno, Curator of Living Collections says, “We are delighted about the third litter of snow leopard cubs to be born here at Twycross Zoo. The two girls are growing at an incredible rate and their mother Irma is doing a fantastic job looking after them. She has been amazing since their day one and I am sure these little girls will grow into strong and healthy females that will help our efforts in maintaining a sustainable population of snow leopards in zoos around the world.”
The cubs are now starting to explore their habitat in the zoo’s Himalaya Centre which is open to the public from 10am to 6pm every day. The zoo’s members have also been voting to name the cubs and the results will be announced later in July.
For more information about visiting Twycross Zoo go to www.twycrosszoo.org