ST PAUL, Minn. — The Como Zoo is welcoming a couple of tiny but important additions to its family: a snow leopard cub and a baby Dall's sheep.
The arrival of a brand new snow leopard at Como would be reason enough to celebrate, but zoo officials are also excited about the first step in establishing a breeding program for the vulnerable species.
The tiny cub was born on April 30 to mother Alya, a 4-year-old snow leopard who came to the zoo from Germany. Its father is Moutig, a 6-year-old from France. It is the first snow leopard born at Como Zoo since 2007.
With genetic lines not well represented outside of Europe, Alya and Moutig were selected for placement in North America through a selection process that attracted applications from around the country. Como Zoo was eventually chosen to receive the breeding pair. Minnesota’s cold climate played a part in the selection, as did Como's 60-year history of raising and breeding big cats.
Alya and her new cub (whose gender is still unknown) are living in an off-exhibit maternity den and are being closely monitored via video system. Vets and zookeepers say Alya is taking exceptional care of her cub, and showing positive mothering behaviors.
Newborn cubs are entirely dependent on their mothers and in the wild do not leave the protection of their dens until about three months of age. Alya and her cub will remain off-exhibit until later this summer when the cub would be routinely leaving the nest.
With their thick, cream-colored coats and gray-black spots, snow leopards camouflage so well within their rocky habitat high in the Himalayas that they are known as the “ghosts of the mountains.” With the ability to leap down heights of 60 feet, snow leopards are said to be the most agile of the “big cats.”
The naming rights for the snow leopard cub will be auctioned off as part of Como Friends annual Sunset Affair Gala. All proceeds support continued improvements and operations of Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, and its education and conservation programs.
The zoo is also celebrating another new baby addition this week: A snowy white female Dall's sheep was welcomed Sunday morning.
"Quinn" was born May 5 and is the fifth lamb to her mother, "Storm."
Dall's sheep are known for the male rams' massive curled horns. The females develop shorter and more slender horns.