Los Angeles Zoo Welcomes Two Endangered Snow Leopard Cubs to the Family

CONTACT: April Spurlock

September 12, 2017

Snow leopard cubs, photo by Jamie Pham

The Los Angeles Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of two endangered snow leopard cubs, born on May 12 and May 13, 2017. Born to three-year-old mother Georgina and five-year-old father Fred, the male and female cubs are the first offspring for the adult snow leopards who were paired together in July 2015 as a part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP). The siblings spent several months behind the scenes bonding with their mother and getting to know the animal care staff. At four months old, the cubs have gained enough strength and coordination to navigate their outdoor habitat and make their public debut.

“We’re so excited to welcome these cubs,” said Stephanie Zielinski, animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. “There is less known about these beautiful cats than most of the other large cat species due to the extreme habitat snow leopards have evolved to live in the wild. This is why it’s such an honor to be able to educate the public and give them the opportunity to observe this elusive species here in Los Angeles.”

The Zoo’s animal care staff began working with the cubs early on, separating the mom for short amounts of time to allow her rest and to help her grow accustomed to animal care staff being around her young. These interactions with the cubs helped animal care staff conduct regular exams, give vaccinations, and eventually lead to an easier transition when introducing the cubs to the outdoor habitat.

Snow leopards in the wild are found in unforgiving environments in the cold, high mountains of Central Asia throughout 12 countries. The habitats range from alpine meadows to treeless, rocky mountains. Due to the high altitudes of its habitat, the animal has evolved to have a large nasal cavity to breathe the thin air and can retain oxygen well. The cats have a thick fur, which allows them to keep warm, and a long tail they can wrap around themselves for added warmth and protection for their ears and face. Their paws have hair cushions that act as snowshoes and also provide protection from sharp rocks. Smoky gray and blurred black markings on the cat’s pale gray or cream-colored coat provide them with handy camouflage in the mountains. Snow leopards can tolerate extreme temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit down to 40 degrees below zero.

While snow leopards have perfectly adapted to the cold, barren landscape of their high-altitude home, human threats have created an uncertain future for the cats. Habitat destruction, prey base depletion, illegal trade, poaching, and conflict with the local people have led to a significant decline with only an estimated population of between 2,000 to 7,000 snow leopards left in the wild.

Guests of the Zoo can finally visit the cubs, currently weighing in at around 22 pounds each, and see firsthand how energetic and playful they are. The cubs and their mother will transition on and off-exhibit various times throughout the day, allowing outdoor time for the adult male snow leopard, Fred.


About the Los Angeles Zoo

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing nearly 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,100 animals representing 250 different species, many of which are rare or endangered. Its lush grounds on 113 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $21 for adults and $16 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo Web site at www.lazoo.org.