Taronga has welcomed a magnificent male Snow Leopard named “Khumbu”. The leopard recently made the journey from Port Macquarie to be paired with female, "Samara", to sire a new generation of Snow Leopards, which are endangered in the wild.
Although still settling in, Zoo visitors over the July holidays will be able to glimpse the agile big cat prowling around Taronga’s Snow Leopard Mountain and marvel at his long, luxuriant tail which Snow Leopards use for balance and also to wrap around themselves like a scarf, to keep warm in the rugged mountains of central Asia.
These amazing animals have extra large paws act like an in-built set of snow shoes, so they don’t sink into the snow. Their short, round ears reduce heat loss and wide, short nasal cavity heats the chilled outside air before it reaches their sensitive lungs.
Despite all these wintery adaptations, the big cats also thrive in the summer heat, with temperatures in their home rangers often reaching above 40 degrees Celsius.
Snow Leopards are so elusive that accurate population estimates are difficult. One researcher spent two years seeking leopards and only found tracks. Poachers, however, are much more successful, because we have reports of leopard furs in markets in Kabul and Pakistan being bought by westerners.
Taronga Carnivore Manager, Louise Ginman, said that it is sad that people in developed countries create the market that fuels this cruel practice.
The Snow Leopard is endangered in the wild, so Zoo breeding programs for animals like Khumbu and Samara are so important. They, and hopefully their future cubs, provide a safety-net in case wild Snow Leopards become extinct.
Louise said that she hope that when people look at these incredible cats, it makes them think twice about what they’re buying when travelling overseas.
Khumbu and Samara will be introduced for mating when the female is next in season.
The last Snow Leopard cubs at Taronga Zoo were born in 2005.