Blog: Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Snow Leopard Cubs Make Debut

snow leopard cubs make debut at Brookfield Zoo 2015

Now is the time to venture out to Brookfield Zoo and see Malaya and Daania, 4-month-old snow leopard cubs who made their public debut recently in their outdoor habitat. The two sisters have been behind the scenes bonding with their 4-year-old mom, Sarani, since their birth on June 16, 2015.

This litter is the second for the zoo’s adult snow leopard pair. Sarani and her 5-year-old mate, Sabu, arrived at Brookfield Zoo in October 2011 from Tautphaus Park Zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Cape May County Park & Zoo in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, respectively. Their pairing was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in AZA zoos and aquariums. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Sarani and Sabu’s last cub, Everest, was born in 2013 and now resides at Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a breeding recommendation from the Snow Leopard SSP. There are 145 snow leopards living in 63 institutions in North America.

Snow leopards are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization. A leading snow leopard conservation organization, the Snow Leopard Trust, estimates population numbers of this elusive cat to be between 4,000 and 6,500 remaining in the wild. They inhabit high, rugged mountainous regions of central Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, China, Mongolia, and Russia. Their numbers are declining due to human influence, such as poaching for medicinal markets and pelts, depletion of their prey base, retribution killing following livestock losses, human population growth, agricultural development, poverty, and civil unrest. The Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo, administers the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) Endangered Species Fund, which supports innovative conservation-oriented research, including snow leopard projects.

Those interested in helping care for the snow leopard cubs at Brookfield Zoo can contribute to the Chicago Zoological Society’s Share the Care program. The cubs will be the featured creatures for the upcoming holiday season. Beginning November 1, gift packages may be purchased. The $35 basic package includes a 5-inch x 7-inch color photograph of your choice of snow leopard cub, a personalized adoption certificate, a fact sheet about snow leopards, a Share the Care car decal, and an invitation to the exclusive Share the Care Evening that will be held in August 2016. A $50 package is also available and includes all the benefits of the basic package plus a snow leopard plush. For further information, visit

Snow leopards' long, thick fur not only keeps them warm in the cold climates of the mountainous regions they inhabit but also helps camouflage them in their environment, allowing them to sneak up on their prey. A 40-inch-long tail aids snow leopards in balancing while navigating rocky terrain, and they wrap it around them to keep warm at night. Their large paws are covered with a cushion of hair that increases surface area and acts like insulating snow shoes. Snow leopards make sounds like other big cats, but they cannot roar. Instead, they make a sound called a “chuff.” They are solitary animals, although a male and female snow leopard may be seen during mating season or a female with her young cubs before they venture out on their own at about 2 years of age.

Posted: 10/21/2015 2:51:48 PM by Steve Pine Filed under: Chicago Board of Trade Endangered Species Fund, endangered, snow leopard cubs, Snow Leopard Trust, SSP

Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

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