WE’RE celebrating World Snow Leopard Day on October 23, but, to be honest, every day is snow leopard day here!
The zoo’s apex predators (it’s all right, we don’t let them out), are incredibly popular with visitors.
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Oasis, it’s testament to the passion and expertise of our founders, Jo and Dave Marsden, that we were accepted onto the European Endangered species breeding Programme (EEP) for snow leopards in 2011.
Snow leopards really need our help. Incredibly vulnerable to poaching and loss of prey across their Himalayan habitat, there are fewer than 8,000 left in the wild, possibly as low as 4,000.
Just like our visitors, I have never lost my sense of awe around these magnificent creatures. They can prey on animals up to three times their own body weight: hence why we don’t let them out!
Our breeding pair, Mummy Tara, and Daddy Pavan have had three cubs: Loki and Luna in 2014, followed by cheeky Chris (named by our visitors) in 2018. Because they have a valuable role in sustaining the species, all three have gone on to new partnerships at fellow European zoos, where Luna has started a dynasty of her own. Our two could well breed again.
Enabling visitors to get close up is vital to inspiring interest and support for these wonderful, rarely seen predators. Our unique Perspex tunnel brings you safely into the very centre of their enclosure, for brilliant views and photographs. It’s a favourite place for me to spend my coffee breaks.
Brave souls can get even closer through the ‘meet the carnivores’ activity, which includes the opportunity to stick-feed them. However close you get; people are surprised to discover snow leopards can’t roar.
Instead, they growl, yowl, mew and make non-threatening communicative sounds by blowing air through their noses, called chuffing. Before my first coffee of the morning, that’s pretty much all you can get out of me, too!