Precious Snow Leopard cubs born at Melbourne Zoo

03 February 2020

Melbourne Zoo is celebrating the safe arrival of three rare snow leopard cubs and has released the first images of the precious litter. The three cubs were born in the early hours of Australia Day to first-time snow leopard mother Miska.

Snow leopards are listed as vulnerable in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Melbourne Zoo is part of the European breeding program for the species, and mum Miska and dad Kang-Ju were brought together at the Zoo as part of the international breeding program.

Melbourne Zoo Carnivores Life Sciences Manager Justin Valentine says the cubs are feeding well and threeyear-old Miska, who arrived at the zoo in 2017, is proving herself to be a brilliant mother.

“It’s going amazingly well," Mr Valentine said. "Mum Miska has been so naturally maternal. She is a firsttime mum, so we weren’t sure how she would take to mothering, but she has been just beautiful."

The sex of the cubs isn't yet known, and they have not been named.

"Like any infant, they are hungry little feeding machines, and seem to be putting on weight steadily so far. It is really exciting. To see them born healthy, and watch Mum being so vigilant and protective of them is so rewarding for the whole team.”

Miska and the father of the cubs Kang-Ju hit it off immediately when introduced three months ago, mating almost immediately.

Mr Valentine said, as is normal in the wild, the cubs will stay close to their mum in her den over coming months.

“The priority now is to leave them with mum to bond and grow strong. For the next few months we will be as hands-off as possible. They will stay in their den with mum until we provide them more access to the snow leopard exhibit.”

Melbourne Zoo's director Michelle Bruggeman says the entire Zoo team is thrilled by the births.

“It is really exciting. The keepers and the entire Melbourne Zoo team are really delighted about this news.

Melbourne Zoo is inviting Zoo members and visitors to view the nesting den where Miska and her cubs are living via a live ‘Cub Cam’ camera, situated at the snow leopard exhibit in Melbourne Zoo’s Carnivores Trail precinct. 'Cub Cam' will feature live footage of the cubs feeding, sleeping and snuggling up to their mum.

“It is a really exciting time for visitors and members to be part of this journey and connected to it," Ms Bruggeman said. "Visitors can come and watch these youngsters feed from Miska and be playful and interact together. So it is a great time to visit Melbourne Zoo."

Snow leopards are among the world's most elusive and solitary animals and are classified as vulnerable in the wild, where they live in harsh mountain environments in countries including India, Nepal, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Threats faced by snow leopards in the wild include poaching and habitat loss due to mining developments.

Zoos Victoria contributes to the conservation of snow leopards in the wild by helping to fund conservation programs in local communities. Zoos Victoria awarded grants to the Nomadic Guardians Foundation in 2018 and again in 2020. The Foundation works to protect snow leopards in the wild while also helping local communities earn a living from farming livestock.