Tierpark Animal News

A brave little fellow

Tierpark Berlin’s snow leopard cub receives first vaccination.

Our little leopard stares up at Tierpark vet Dr Günter Strauß reproachfully with his big, blue eyes. Today, the two-month old cub had to endure not just one but two jabs – both very important for his wellbeing. Domestic cat owners will be familiar with the process: “At around eight weeks, all cats receive a standard vaccination against common diseases such as panleukopenia and canine distemper,” explains Strauß. “The other injection was to implant the microchip that all our threatened species receive for identification purposes.”

The young snow leopard was born on 13 June and is the third cub of parents Maya and Bataar (both aged six). The couple barely noticed their son’s quick trip to the doctor, using their time together in their indoor enclosure to discuss important parenting matters.

At eight weeks of age, the cub tips the scale at just under four kilos. Adult snow leopards weigh up to 75 kg, are excellent climbers and can jump impressive distances. Currently, Maya and her son are still enjoying the privacy of their birthing den. Next week, the two of them will be allowed to venture outside for the first time. When exactly Tierpark visitors will be able to clap eyes on the little fellow is completely up to him, however: the “garden gate” will remain open for the first few days, allowing mother and son to come and go as they please.

Snow leopards are among the most endangered of all big cats. According to estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are currently only 4,000 to 6,600 snow leopards living in their natural habitat, the Central Asian mountain ranges. Their numbers in the wild have fallen drastically due to destruction of their environment, scarcity of their usual prey such the markhor wild goat and the Himalayan blue sheep, and poaching for their thick fur and their bones. Tierpark Berlin has been involved in efforts to protect these endangered cats for almost 20 years. “The many years of hard work put in by keepers and curators is paying off,” says Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr Andreas Knieriem. “We have already been fortunate enough to welcome 13 young snow leopards into the world, all of which have been sent across the globe as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.” Zoo-coordinated breeding programmes are creating important genetic reservoirs for the endangered big cats.