AKRON, Ohio –– For just the second time in its history snow leopard cubs have been born at the Akron Zoo. One male and one female cub were born on April 14, 2014. The cubs are currently off exhibit and indoors in a cubbing area with their mother, Shanti. Snow leopards are an endangered species and are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). A naming contest will be announced in a few weeks.
The cubs will remain indoors until they go onto exhibit, most likely at the end of June or early July. The cubs currently weigh about 6 lbs.; at birth they weighed around 1 ½ lbs. each. At six weeks old now the cubs’ eyes are open and they are able to walk and are starting to climb.
Since her last pregnancy, Shanti had been trained by staff, through protected contact, to allow them to perform ultrasounds. Staff had kept the training up in hopes Shanti would get pregnant again. Once staff suspected she was pregnant they performed an ultrasound at 44 days after breeding and continued to do so weekly to monitor the cubs development. For the first time in its history the zoo was also able to train Shanti to sit during x-rays so the cubs development could be even more closely monitored. This type of training is beneficial to the Shanti, avoiding the need to anesthetize her for these procedures. The Akron Zoo is one of the few zoos in the country to use these newer techniques with snow leopards.
This is Shanti and father, Roscoe’s, second successful litter at the Akron Zoo. Two male cubs, Raj and Sabu, were born at the zoo in 2012 and currently reside at the Binder Park Zoo in Michigan and The Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island, respectively.
Roscoe will be on exhibit everyday until Shanti and the cubs start to go out onto exhibit. As in the wild, the father does not participate in the rearing process. He will never have direct contact with the cubs. Roscoe is 11 years old and came to the Akron Zoo in 2004 from the San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium. Shanti is five years old and came to the Akron Zoo from the Binder Park Zoo in 2009.
Snow leopards are an endangered species primarily due to loss of habitat, illegal poaching for their pelts and body parts and killings by local herders when a snow leopard has preyed on their livestock. There are less than 150 snow leopards in the SSP in the U.S. and there are believed to be as few as 4,000 left in the wild.
The Akron Zoo is open 361 days a year. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and admission is $11 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, $8 for children (ages 2-14). Children under two are free an