November 18, 2009
There have been many successful snow leopard cub births in zoos across the world this year (including our own Melbourne Zoo) and I must say I sometimes forget how fragile the breeding programs can be. Sadly two cubs born in May this year at the Welsh Mountain Zoo have died recently after coming down with feline cowpox. This cowpox is carried by small mammals like voles and wild mice and common in domestic cats in the UK according to an article in the North Wales Pioneer. More from the BBC here.
Hopefully zoo staff and vets around the world can learn from these sad deaths and it won’t happen again. The Zoo says its hopes the snow leopard parents, mother Otila and her mate Szechuan will breed again next year.
July 1, 2009
Tashi in snow. Photo Penny Stephens. The Age/SMH
Meo and her two cubs, Tashi (f) and Gobi (m) got ten tons of snow today to celebrate the cubs’ 6 month birthday. Meo, who originally comes from a Zoo in a town in Germany very close to where I was born (on a snow storm night – many years ago) knows a thing or two about snow flakes and ice.
But not Aussie-born Tashi and Gobi. They hesitated before walking onto this funny white stuff. By the time they did venture onto it, mum Meo had found and eaten just about all the raw chicken that the keepers had put out today.
Howie with raw chicken and ice sculpture. Photo by Sibylle.
I asked Adrian “Howie” Howard, senior Carnivore Keeper about that and he said, “it happens, but she’s never let them go hungry or starve. In fact just recently she’s been pushing them to go and find the food for themselves rather than wait for her to find it and bring it back to them.” Howie had placed the chicken all through the snow as well as rubbed some onto the beautiful ice snow leopard sculpture that was also part of the celebration.
The whole thing was fun for the media and the zoo visitors and a wonderful enrichment experience for the cubs and Meo. Dad Leon next door missed out on the snow, but didn’t seem too fussed as he tucked into his breakfast and then had a snooze.
The ABC has an online interview with Howie about the snow experience today. And more pics from The Age / SMH.
June 4, 2009
Tashi and Gobi at Melbourne Zoo get fed a range of food now that they are fully weaned (which happened at about 4 months according to Senior Carnivore Keeper Howie.) The other day he put a number of rabbits into their area and Meo, mum, got to them first but as soon as the cubs ran up to her she gave them up and each cub got stuck into a rabbit. They also really like chicken although for some reason both mum Meo and dad Leon seem to prefer goat.
June 4, 2009
Cub at Melbourne Zoo. Photo by kind permission from passionate snow leopard sponsor Glenn McColl
I had coffee with a couple of the Zoo staff again yesterday and looked in on the snow leopards as usual. I wasn’t expecting much action from them in the middle of the day and sure enough they were all very quiet. Shimbu, the grand old dame, was fast asleep amongst the rocks. It was amazing – as I walked close to her exhibit area I was positive I spotted her, but when I got close, of course it was a rock. It still surprises me, even after years, how well their beautiful fur provides for camouflage.
The cubs Tashi and Gobi are growing. Howie, the senior Carnivore Keeper told me that now, at 6 months of age (this week), Tashi (f) weighs 13.1 kg and Gobi (m) 12.7 kg. I asked if it was usual for the female to weigh more at the same age and he said “she’s just a bit faster into the food!” Mum Meo was also resting as was dad Leon next door. Leon was lying on top of his wooden platform with his enormous tail hanging down in all its glory. A gaggle of school kids were mesmerised by the size and thickness of the tail and stood for a long time, watching as it twitched in his sleep.