A snow leopard cub was recently born at the Akron Zoo. The female cub was born on April 29 and is currently in a private cubbing area with mom, Shanti.
This birth marks Shanti’s eighth cub. She previously welcomed two cubs in 2012, two cubs in 2014 and three cubs in 2016 with her previous mate, Roscoe. This cub’s father is Tai Lung, who is a first-time father.
At the cub’s first veterinary exam at three days old, she was diagnosed with a congenital eye defect called a coloboma. A relatively common defect in snow leopards, multiple ocular colobomas (MOC) can cause abnormalities to parts of the eye, varying in severity and can include the eyelids, iris and optic nerves. It has been determined that the cub has colobomas affecting the eyelids in both of her eyes.
“We noticed that there appeared to be an abnormality with the cub’s eyelids,” said Dr. Brittany Rizzo, director of animal health at the Akron Zoo. “After an exam by an ophthalmologist, we diagnosed her with colobomas. Aside from her eyes, she is thriving in every way. Shanti is taking great care of her little girl, which we are very happy to see.”
After a few months, the veterinary team, along with ophthalmologist Dr. Emily Conway, will determine the best course of action for the cub, which could include corrective surgery.
“We plan to monitor the cub closely and allow her eyes to develop a little more,” said Dr. Rizzo. “When she is a little bigger, we will decide the best course of treatment for her.”
The cub weighs in at five pounds. At birth, she weighed approx. one pound. The female cub currently does not have a name, and the zoo plans to announce a naming contest at a later date. The cub will remain in the cubbing area with Shanti until later in the summer.
Until then, father Tai Lung will be out in the snow leopard habitat daily. In their native habitats, male snow leopards do not participate in the rearing of cubs. Tai Lung will not have any contact with the cub.
In September 2017, the IUCN Red List downgraded the snow leopard’s status from endangered to vulnerable. While snow leopard numbers are believed to have increased, their status is still an area of concern. Snow leopard numbers in their native habitats are estimated to range from 2,500 to 10,000. Snow leopards are native to the Himalayan mountain range in central Asia and have been facing habitat loss and poaching due to the illegal fur trade, as well as human conflict.
Through a partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust, the Akron Zoo supports community education initiatives in the snow leopards home range and field monitoring of snow leopards. The zoo is actively involved in the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan.