Tails From The Zoo

Snow Leopards February 7, 2010

Filed under: Teacher's Resources,Wild Cats,Zoo Animals,Zoo Knew — Scott Gray @ 7:31 am
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SNOW LEOPARDS          Panthera uncia

We have 1.1 snow leopards at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Yashin (male):

  • Born May 23, 1996
  • We received him in December 2008, from the Papanack Park Zoo

Lhassa (female):

  • Born July 11th, 1994 in Granby, Quebec
  • Came to us (from Granby) in December of 1997
  • Between 2000-2005 she had 18 offspring, usually triplets but one time had quadruplets.

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Did you know?

The cats’ long, powerful hind limbs help the snow leopard leap more than 30 feet – 6 times its body length!


The snow leopard cannot make the low and intense “roars” of which the other big cats are capable. This is because its vocal fold is less developed than in other pantherines, lacking a thick pad of fibro-elastic tissue.

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General Information:

Status: Listed as Endangered

  • Unfortunately the snow leopards numbers have been so reduced that the few remaining animals and populations are widely scattered.
  • It is estimated that there are between 3,500 and 7,500 snow leopards left in the wild. It is very hard to have an exact count as their habitat is harsh and they are hard to spot.
  • There are about 400 of these cats in zoos around the world according to ISIS

Threats:

  • Demand for leopard pelts has been the main reason for its reduction or extermination in many regions.
  • Traditional Asian medicine uses their bones and other body parts.
  • Due to wars, hunting and competition with grazing livestock there is a decline in numbers of wild prey.
  • Herdsmen who accuse the leopards of killing their livestock persecute them. The people, however, are actually causing the problem by bringing their livestock high up into the snow leopards’ range.
  • Much of the snow leopard’s territory is along international borders, which does not make it easy for conservation of the species, since trans-boundary conservation efforts are complicated.

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Arid alpine regions
  • The snow leopard is restricted to the high mountain, from Afghanistan eastwards through the mighty Himalayas and north to western China and Mongolia. (Includes Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.)

Natural Diet:

  • Over most of their range they hunt sheep, goats, marmots, and hares.
  • In the Himalayas they eat blue sheep, ibex, and wild argali

Zoo Diet: Raw meat, rabbits, chickens

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Zoo Notes:

  • Snow leopards have an average life span of 15 years; up to 19 in zoos.
  • Snow leopards live a solitary life in the wild, except during the breeding season. Average of two-three young are born (range 1 to 5) after a gestation period of 90-100 days.
  • The cubs become independent after about 18-22 months

Adaptations for living on a mountain:

  • Well-developed chest
  • Short forelimbs with large paws for walking on snow
  • Long hind limbs for leaping
  • Long flexible tail for balancing

Adaptations for cold weather:

  • Enlarged nasal cavity
  • Long fur with wooly undergrowth
  • Thick furry tail for wrapping around body and face
  • The fur on their bellies is up to 12 cm (nearly 5 in) long

Size:

  • Snow leopards weigh between 75-120 pounds. Males average 45 – 55 kg and females average 35 – 40 kg.
  • Body length ranges from 100 – 130 cm (39-51 inches)
  • Tails measure almost as long as their bodies (length: 80 – 100 cm (32-39 inches))

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References:

www.arkive.com , www.snowleopard.org , www.snowleopardconservancy.org , www.waza.org

Compiled by Scott Gray and Jenna Harrison; February 7th, 2010

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