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Fifteen months after Banham Zoo in Norfolk announced the birth of three endangered snow leopards, the cubs are preparing to depart to new homes as part of the International breeding programme.
Born on the 22nd May 2010, the cubs, Margaash, Rebecca and Ziva, would normally have been hidden from view for several weeks. Big cats can be extremely secretive when rearing their young, but the zoo had concealed four CCTV cameras in the female's hidden den to record the birth and development. This allowed staff and visitors an unprecedented view of the cubs right from the beginning, without causing any disturbance to either them or their mother.
The youngsters, a male and two females, are now approaching the age when they would naturally reach independence in the wild. Mike Woolham, Animal Manager said, "Both staff and visitors have shared an amazing opportunity to watch the cubs grow up. When they were born they would have weighed less than a kilogram but they are now tipping the scales at 25kg and the time is right for them to depart to their new homes".
Snow leopards are an endangered species and Banham Zoo has been involved in the European Breeding Programme for more than 25 years, the first pair arriving at the zoo from zoological collections in the USA and Finland.
Following the birth the studbook coordinator issued recommendations for the cubs to be sent to Dudley Zoo, Howletts Zoo in Kent and Krefeld Zoo, Germany where they will be paired with snow leopards of the opposite sex, hopefully to continue the breeding success seen recently at Banham.
The parents, Rocky and Enif, have been together since 2008 when Banham Zoo brought Enif to the UK from Tokyo Zoo, Japan, at the request of the coordinator. She is descended from a vitally important male within the breeding programme and at the time had no other living descendents in European zoos.