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25 August 2011, 15:02
Marwell Wildlife’s three snow leopard cubs have taken their very first steps outside into their new home at the animal park near Winchester.
Despite the pouring rain, the 12-week old triplets were keen to explore their surroundings by climbing rocks, play fighting and chasing mum!
The baby leopards, two female and a male, were born in June and have been closely monitored by Marwell’s animal keepers.
Marc Fox, assistant section manager of carnivores said:
“We are really pleased with the progress the cubs have made so far.
“Mum Irina has been extremely attentive and has cared for them brilliantly. This is her first litter of cubs, so to give birth to triplets is fantastic.”
The cubs’ parents, Mum Irina and Dad Indeever, arrived at the park in January 2010 as part of the European endangered species breeding programme (EEP).
Marwell’s conservation biologist, Heidi Mitchell said:
“Marwell has been working alongside the EEP for the snow leopards, which is coordinated from Helsinki Zoo, since the 1970’s.
“Our three new cubs are of critical importance to the breeding programme.”
“Snow leopards, like all big cat species, are threatened in the wild.
"This means that maintaining a healthy captive population of snow leopards is of vital importance to the global conservation strategy for the species.”
Marwell’s carnivore keepers have named the female cubs Kamala and Kitana, and now they are asking the public to help them name the male cub.
Visit www.marwell.org.uk/cubs for more details on how to submit your chosen name and for terms and conditions.
About snow leopards:
In the wild, snow leopards are distributed over a vast area including parts of Mongolia, USSR, China, Bhutan, N. India, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan.
Snow leopards prey on mountain goats, ibex, gazelle, boar and smaller mammals and birds which they hunt at night and in the early morning. They retreat to rocky lairs during the day.
As demand for more land has increased, domestic stock has been brought into the remote mountain areas, once the sole domain of the snow leopard. Inevitably occasional stock is killed, with the result that the snow leopard is persecuted by farmers.
Hunting for the fur trade has also taken its toll, as has the reduction in the populations of its main prey species due to habitat destruction.
Main features of a snow leopard:
Long thick fur, yellowish grey, marked with dark blotches/rosettes.
The snow leopard’s long furry tail helps it to survive in its cold rocky home. It is used for balance when the cat leaps from one ledge to another.
The tail is also used as a ‘nose warmer’ when the snow leopard sleeps.