Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
Triplet snow leopards were born at Woodland Park Zoo on May 2. The cubs, two females and a male, will make their public debut in mid-July.

Triplet snow leopards born at the Woodland Park Zoo

A display of beautiful spots appeared earlier at Woodland Park Zoo when triplet snow leopards were born to 7-year-old mother Helen earlier this month. The cubs represent the second litter for Helen and 6-year-old father Tom.
 
A neonatal examination on the cubs last week confirmed the cups as two females and one male.
 
The mom and cubs are off public exhibit in a maternal den to allow bonding and proper nursing. The zoo anticipates putting the cubs on public exhibit in mid-July.
 
“Helen was an excellent mother to the pair of cubs she gave birth to in 2009 and successfully raised. We’re very pleased to see that she’s nurturing the three cubs very well and that they appear to be progressing normally. They appear to be healthy, their eyes are just now opening and their bellies were full of milk, indicating that they are nursing,” said the zoo's Director of Animal Health, Dr. Darin Collins.

The cubs currently weigh between 2.1 and 2.4 pounds.
 
Snow leopards are an endangered species, and cubs are born helpless, with their eyes closed, and rely for several weeks on their mothers for nutrition. To minimize disturbance, staff have minimal physical contact with the new family and are monitoring mother and cubs via a web cam.

Since snow leopards are solitary animals in the wild, the father has been separated and is on public exhibit in the snow leopard exhibit adjacent to Australasia.
 
The snow leopard is a moderately large cat native to the high mountain ranges of Central Asia and Russia, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. Snow leopard scientists estimate as few as 3,500 remain in the wild.
 
Woodland Park Zoo has a long history of caring for snow leopards and conserving them in the wild, since the zoo’s first snow leopards arrived in 1972 from the USSR.

Under the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP), 34 cubs have born at the zoo and have helped diversify the genetic pool of the managed population.

“This is a significant birth for snow leopards in zoos in North America and around the world, and marks the first recorded birth this year for the SSP. By virtue of their majestic beauty, they are conservation ambassadors for their species in the wild," said Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, a curator at Woodland Park Zoo. "These cubs in the future will become valuable in inspiring people to learn more about how to save this endangered cat that is struggling to survive in its range countries."

Photos of the neonatal exam can be found on the zoo’s blog at: http://woodlandparkzblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/baby-baby-baby.html. As more footage and images are made available, snow leopard fans can keep tabs on the cubs by checking out the zoo’s blog and YouTube.

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