July 12, 2008

Snow Leopard Cub Births at Zoo Important for Endangered Cats

Two snow leopard cubs at the Oklahoma City Zoo are growing quickly and will soon be on public display.

Zoo officials unveiled the cubs Friday. The brother and sister were born in May, and they'll go on display Aug. 1.

The siblings are the first snow leopards born at the zoo in 16 years. Only about 150 snow leopards live in accredited zoos nationwide, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

"Every birth is very, very important, especially in a captivity setting," said Jennifer D'Agostino, veterinary services director for the city's zoo.

Birth follows new lions The last big cat birth was of four lion cubs in November. Two litters were delivered by Caesarean section because of delivery complications in each of the two mothers. Zoo medical staff were on guard for the snow leopard's pregnancy.

A surveillance camera tracked the mother, Kiara, 24 hours a day for the week leading to her labor, D'Agostino said.

The labor went fine, and the cubs are growing steadily, said Jonathan Reding, supervisor of Cat Forest and Lion Overlook.

The cubs weighed about 2 pounds at birth and are 6 1/2 pounds now. Adults weigh about 80 pounds, though they look larger because of their thick fur, zookeepers said.

Kiara was born at the Tulsa Zoo and was bottle-reared by keepers. Oklahoma City staff worried she might not adequately care for her young. But she's doing "better than anyone expected," Reding said.

"She's doing excellent for a mom," he said.

The cubs likely won't interact with their father, Tankh; male snow leopards are solitary in the wild.


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