Snow leopard twins born at Twycross Zoo

Posted: 12th July, 2017

Twycross Zoo is pleased to announce the latest additions to the zoo – twin, female snow leopard cubs, born in April 2017.

This is the third pair for mum Irma and dad Suou. The cubs and their mother Irma spent their first months together in a den off-show to settle into the world at their own pace and now as they grow older, the two little girls will begin venturing further away from the den’s safety.

As are their older siblings, a boy and a girl born in 2011 and two boys born in 2013, these two female cubs are an important part in the international breeding programme. These programmes help zoos maintain a genetically healthy population in captivity, which acts as a safety net for the species in the wild. With their mother coming from Swedish Kolmarden Wildlife Park and their father from Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo, their cubs are particularly valuable in terms of their genetic makeup.

Snow leopards, classified by IUCN as Endangered, are often killed by local farmers because they prey on livestock. Additionally, these big cats are also hunted for their beautiful and warm fur. The species is suspected to have declined by at least 20% over the past 16 years due to habitat and prey-base loss, but also due to poaching and persecution. It is estimated that there are only 3,000 to 7,500 snow leopards left in their natural home range across the vast high mountains of Central Asia.

Keepers at Twycross Zoo hope the two young girls become the next generation of breeding females in other zoos to help the conservation of this elusive species. At the moment, however, the cubs have all the time to play, which helps them learn what they need to know about the world around them. Irma, now an experienced mum, is tasked with the parenting as is the preferred behaviour in wild snow leopards. Dad Suou might be seen doing some disciplining, but as a solitary species, fathers get rarely involved in rearing the youngsters.

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 on view in the zoo’s free-to-enter Himalaya Centre which is open to the public from 10am to 6pm every day. Visitors will be able to watch a slide show of the latest photos on a screen in the Himalaya Centre, should the cubs not venture outside their den during their visit. The zoo’s members have been contacted to vote on the cubs’ names and have chosen Eva, meaning life in Hebrew and Ceba, meaning dear to hold in Tibetan. 

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