By Erica Rymer, Events & Marketing Specialist
The polls are in! We asked you to vote on your favorite Akron Zoo animals in our “March Madness” bracket, and you had a lot to say! Unfortunately, though we had many wonderful contestants, there could be only one winner, and you chose Shanti!
Shanti is our female snow leopard. She was born at Binder Park Zoo in Michigan in June 2008 and arrived at your Akron Zoo roughly one year later. During her stay with us, Shanti has captured the hearts of many of our guests.
Snow leopards are native to the mountains of Central Asia. They are found at elevations between 5,700 and 18,000 feet, though they can be found at lower elevations in the winter. Their most common prey are bharal (blue sheep) and Asiatic ibex (wild goats), but they will also feed on smaller prey such as wild boar, tahr, red pandas, gazelles, marmot, pika, hares, small rodents and even game birds. Shanti’s habitat is made to mimic her natural environment. The rock is elevated, allowing her to climb, like a snow leopard living in the mountains would.
During our stay with us, Shanti has given birth to seven snow leopard cubs in three separate litters. These cubs could be visited at the Akron Zoo as they grew. When they were old enough (12-18 months), they moved to other zoos all across the country based on the recommendations of the snow leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP).
It is important we remember that Shanti is not just a resident of the Akron Zoo; she is a representative of her species as a whole. The snow leopard has been categorized as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1972. The greatest threat to the species is poaching for fur, and for body parts used in traditional Asian medicine. Snow leopards are also competing for their prey and habitats with humans, and when they can’t find their natural prey, they are being killed in retaliation for hunting livestock.
This species is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Appendix I), which makes trafficking live cats, fur or body parts illegal. To protect and support snow leopards in their natural habitat, the Akron Zoo supports the Snow Leopard Trust, an organization working in five countries to study snow leopards and increase conservation awareness among local communities. The trust encourages the protection of this species by reimbursing herders for livestock killed by snow leopards. They also empower women in the community to create alternative sources of income.
Be sure to visit your Akron Zoo to congratulate Shanti on her victory, and to help us protect snow leopards in their natural habitats! Each time you visit, a portion of your ticket price supports our conservation efforts, such as the Snow Leopard Trust! By visiting us, you become a champion of the natural world.