AKRON, Ohio – You may soon be able to “spot” the newest addition to the Akron Zoo – a five-pound snow leopard cub who needs a few months to get bigger and undergo medical treatment before she is ready to enter the habitat.
The female cub was born on April 29 and has not been named, the zoo said Wednesday in a news release. The zoo plans to hold a naming contest for the cub, who is currently in a private “cubbing” area with her mom, Shanti.
The cub is Shanti’s eighth birth, having previously welcomed two cubs in 2012, two in 2014 and three in 2016 with her previous mate, Roscoe, who was euthanized in July 2017 after a cancer diagnosis.
This cub’s father, Tai Lung, is a first-time father. The baby brings the zoo’s snow leopard total to three.
The cub will remain in the cubbing area with Shanti until later in the summer. Since male snow leopards do not rear their young in the wild, Tai Lung will not have any contact with the cub and will be out in the snow leopard habitat each day.
The cub weighed about one pound at birth, and currently weighs in at five pounds, the zoo said.
At her first veterinary exam at three days old, she was diagnosed with a congenital eye defect called a coloboma. Multiple ocular colobomas are relatively common in snow leopards and can cause abnormalities to parts of the eye including the eyelids, iris and optic nerves, according to the zoo.
The cub has colobomas affecting both her eyelids, the zoo said.
“We noticed that there appeared to be an abnormality with the cub’s eyelids,” said Dr. Brittany Rizzo, director of animal health at the Akron Zoo. “After an exam by an ophthalmologist, we diagnosed her with colobomas.”
In a few months, the veterinary team and ophthalmologist Dr. Emily Conway will determine the best course of action, which could include corrective surgery.
“We plan to monitor the cub closely and allow her eyes to develop a little more,” Rizzo said. “Aside from her eyes, she is thriving in every way. Shanti is taking great care of her little girl, which we are very happy to see.”
Snow leopards were downgraded in September 2017 from endangered to vulnerable. An estimated 2,500 to 10,000 snow leopards exist in native habitats, but their status is still a concern.
Snow leopards are native to the Himalayan mountain range in central Asia and have been facing habitat loss and poaching due to the illegal fur trade as well as human conflict, the zoo said.
The Akron Zoo is involved in the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan. In partnership with the Snow Leopard Trust, the zoo supports educational initiatives and field monitoring of the animals.