March 30, 2009
Sibylle (L) with Howie and friend Meg
An excited group of 80 snow leopard sponsors met the new cubs at the Melbourne Zoo last Saturday. Adrian “Howie” Howard, one of the senior carnivore keepers introduced us to the cubs and their Mum, Meo. Over a couple of hours Howie entertained us with information about breeding and the births as well as stories of snow leopard behaviour in the wild. We learnt about the successful Melbourne Zoo breeding program with dad Leon and mum, Meo who now have a 3 month old boy and girl cub.
Excited snow leopard sponsors
There were yelps of excitement and camera clicking as we watched the cubs eat their breakfast of chicken and then play with each other and mum. They ran up the tree branch, rolled through the grass and generally gave an Oscar winning performance for the sponsors who were delighted. One sponsor had driven for over two and a half hours to arrive at the zoo by 8.30 in the morning, true dedication. Another, Margaret, now in her late 70’s had recently broken her pelvis and was still walking with a stick but she wasn’t going to miss this for quids.
We also met 20 year old Shimbu, or Shimmy as Howie calls her, the snow leopard matriarch who was tucking into a huge piece of goat for her breakfast that morning.
Cubs on tree branch. Pic by Martin Terlecki, Melbourne Zoo.
Paul Clarke, the energetic Development Manager from the Zoos Victoria Foundation who organised the event was stunned by the overwhelming response from the sponsors. “People emailed me back right away, saying they’ll be here. One woman who lives in New Caledonia said she tried to get a plane but there were no seats available. Amazing!”
March 11, 2009
Meo and cubs. Photo by Adrian Howard, Melbourne Zoo.
Six-year-old Meo gave birth for the first time on December 7th, and until now the cubs have led a very sheltered life, initially spending all their time in a dark and quiet nesting box.
Meo has been bringing her cubs out into the adjacent night yards, so the cubs are slowly getting used to the wider world around them.
On March 5th Zoo veterinarians and keepers separated Meo from the cubs for a brief period, so Dr Michael Lynch could give the cubs a health check and vaccinate them against cat flu and feline enteritis.
Afterwards, keepers opened the access doors between the exhibit and the behind-the-scenes areas, so Meo and the cubs could move between the two areas. It’s expected that they will spend more and more time out in the exhibit as they become increasingly confident. See more on Meo and Leon’s background at the Melbourne Zoo website.
March 11, 2009
Female cub getting weighed. Photo David Caird. News Ltd.
Cubs with Meo. Photo David Caird. News Ltd.
Another 20 pics from News Ltd photographer David Caird. See them here.
March 11, 2009
Himalayan tahr. Photo by Som Ale.
Som Ale, from Nepal, sent me this spectacular photo of a tahr, one of the main animals that snow leopards hunt. Som had to be sure footed to get this shot, he nearly fell off the mountain taking it.
We can see the beautiful Ama Dablam mountain (quite close to Everest) in the background. Som’s been studying snow leopards and their prey species, the Himalayan tahr for some years now, concentrating on the Sagarmatha (Everest) national park region.
He says, “my ecological quest is to use the prey behavior (tahr’s behavior in this case) to get clues about their predators (here the snow leopard). So to observe prey behavior one needs to go closer to animals. In this case I went too close (hopping downhill), on steep terrain full of gravels and rocks, but luckily this animal was not scared of my presence – it was on the cliff, the favourite escape cover, majestically standing above me. I was caught in surprise by other tahrs in the group coming from nowhere below where I was balancing myself with scope in one hand and camera in the other.”
March 5, 2009
Meo and her two cubs at Melbourne Zoo. Photo Melb Zoo /Adrian Howard, senior carnivore keeper.
It’s almost like being a godmother ;-). After many years of sponsoring snow leopards our Zoo finally has two gorgeous new cubs. The two snow leopard cubs were born at Melbourne Zoo in December. They got their second health check and introduction to the media today. Zoo vet Dr Michael Lynch, who gave the cubs vaccinations said they’re in great health. Adian “Howie” Howard, senior keeper, praised Meo, “first time mum” and the wonderful job she’s done raising the two, a boy and a girl. Meo, 6 years old was zoo born and hand reared but she’s “done everything right” with the two cubs.
The two beautiful 5 kg cats, who have yet to be named, were quiet and big eyed and a huge hit for their first media interview. The Zoo is delighted as it’s been 20 years since they’ve had a snow leopard cub born there. The birth at the Zoo is part of a large international breeding effort in Zoos across the world. Father Leon, 7, is also at the Melbourne Zoo. He was quietly lying in his exhibit area next to his family, fast asleep when I visited him today. No doubt wondering what all the fuss is about.
Meanwhile, Shimbu, the 19 year old female snow leopard who also calls Melbourne Zoo home, was walking around, watching birds and busily doing a paw clean as many visitors were watching her while the cubs next door were in hiding. I’m so excited about these little guys and look forward to seeing more of them in the coming months.
***** If you’d like to sponsor the snow leopard cubs contact Melbourne Zoo Foundation.