One of the UK’s major zoos, Twycross Zoo, which welcomes over half a million visitors a year and is in its 50th year of business, has announced the birth of two endangered snow leopard cubs, and the twin boys are now on full view to the public.
The as yet unnamed brothers were born 1st May and have spent the last few months becoming familiar with their new surroundings in an off-show area with their mother, Irma.
Zoo staff were able to keep a close eye on both the birth and the cub’s development without disturbing the animals via cameras in the den.
Dr Charlotte Macdonald, Living Collections Curator, said: “The cubs are growing at an incredible rate and Irma is going a great job and allowing them to venture further away from her each day. It is always amazing to be able to see cubs being born, especially for such a secretive species. Very few people will ever have the opportunity to see snow leopards being born so the footage that we have been able to capture is unique. Additional footage that we have since the birth also gives us an amazing opportunity to monitor the cub’s development, particularly important in the early weeks when it is important to keep any disturbance to a minimum.”
Chris Howard from BBC Earth’s YouTube channel ‘Earth Unplugged’ filmed the cubs emerging in to their new home for the first time. (See video above)
This is the second litter of snow leopard cubs to be born at Twycross since parents Irma and Suou arrived in 2010 as part of the international breeding programme of this endangered species. The first cubs left the zoo in October 2012 for other zoos as part of the European Breeding Programme.
Sharon Redrobe, Zoological Director, said: “The birth of the cubs is particularly important to the breeding programme for this species as it is vital that we maintain a genetically healthy population in captivity that acts as a safety net population for snow leopards in their natural range. Originating from a zoo in Japan, Suou is particularly important genetically so these cubs will go on to play an important role in the breeding programme in the coming years”.
Neil Dorman, Curator of Conservation and Planning, said: “Through our Conservation Welfare Fund we have funded the Snow Leopard Trust, which looks at the range patterns of Snow Leopards by using radio collars. The collars note positioning and time lengths, so the Trust can get a rough estimation of feeding bouts, defecation sites and sleeping dens.”
The cubs are currently on view in the Zoo’s free-to-enter Himalaya centre which is open to the public from 10am throughout the year except for Christmas Day.