A Snow Leopard cub born this summer at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo has made its public debut.
The female cub, who has not yet been named, plays and wrestles with her mother, K2, in the photos and video below. Baby animals develop important skills through play, and K2 is proving to be a patient teacher even when her cub is in “attack mode.”
The cub is the second-generation offspring of Leo – a Snow Leopard who was rescued as a young orphaned cub after being found in the high mountains of northern Pakistan in 2005. Leo was brought to the Bronx Zoo in 2006 as part of a historic collaboration between WCS and the U.S. and Pakistani governments.
The cub’s father, Naltar, was sired by Leo in 2013.
“This Snow Leopard cub is special not only because it is an ambassador for its species, but because of its lineage,” said Dr. Patrick Thomas, WCS Vice President and General Curator, and Bronx Zoo Associate Director who was part of the delegation who brought Leo from Pakistan. “Leo and his descendants, including this cub, will help bolster the health and genetics of the Snow Leopard population in AZA-accredited zoos.”
More than 70 cubs have been born at the Bronx Zoo – more the than any other zoo in North America – and the Bronx was the first zoo in the United States to exhibit the species in 1903. The Bronx Zoo breeds Snow Leopards as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Snow Leopards are native to remote mountains of Central Asia and parts of China, Mongolia, Russia, India and Bhutan. WCS has worked for decades on Snow Leopard conservation programs in the field with current projects in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and western China. Past projects have also included work with Snow Leopards in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.
In Pakistan, WCS has been implementing a community-based conservation program since 1997 to help protect the Snow Leopard and other wildlife. The program includes education, training, and institution building for community resource management. WCS has helped create over 60 natural resource committees and trained over 100 community rangers to monitor Snow Leopards and other wildlife and stop deforestation and poaching that threatens these species and local livelihoods.
As a result of ongoing conservation efforts, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently reclassified Snow Leopards from Endangered to Threatened. The species’ survival is still at risk and continues to face threats that stem from human activities such as habitat loss and illegal killings.
See more photos of the playful cub below.