The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, is happy to announce the birth of two female snow leopard cubs on June 16. Currently, the cubs—each of whom weighs about 10 pounds—are bonding with their 4-year-old mother, Sarani, in a behind-the-scenes den and will likely make their public debut in mid-October, the public can view additional images and video of the cubs on the zoo’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/brookfieldzoo.
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. Everest, a snow leopard born at Brookfield Zoo in 2013 to Sarani and Sabu, is now at Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska, on a breeding loan that is also based on a recommendation from the SSP. There are 145 snow leopards living in 63 institutions in North America. Brookfield Zoo has exhibited snow leopards since 1936.
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 hides, depletion of their prey base, retribution killing following livestock losses, residential and commercial development, and civil unrest.