A male snow leopard cub was born May 6, 2018, at the Sacramento Zoo, the zoo announced Monday.
It's the first snow leopard birth at the zoo since 2006. This also was the first pregnancy for the cub’s 5-year-old mother, Misha, and 6-year-old father, Blizzard.
A second cub died several days after birth when its health began to decline. Initial exams indicate the cub suffered from severe birth defects, including a cleft palate, according to the zoo. A full necropsy (animal autopsy) is being performed at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, according to the zoo.
Meanwhile, Misha and the the cub continue to be closely monitored by staff through closed-circuit video, the zoo said in a news release. The pair are being housed in an off-exhibit maternity den where mother and cub can bond and allow for proper nursing and care in a quiet space. Misha and the cub will remain out of the public eye until later this summer when the cub is routinely leaving the nest area and coordinated enough to navigate his habitat and make his public debut, the zoo said.
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The snow leopards appear to be doing well, according to a veterinarian who performed a neonatal exam on May 10.
“I was pleased by how robust and vibrant the cub appeared at its first evaluation, and we look forward to seeing how he continues to grow and develop," Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema, the associate veterinarian who performed the exam said in a news release.
At that time the cub weighed 1.35 pounds and showed normal signs of growth and development including a strong heart and lungs, Gjeltema said.
The breeding was carefully planned and recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan. Any snow leopard birth is significant due to the species’ declining population in the wild, according to the zoo.