Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo welcomes 3 newborn snow leopard cubs

The Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) welcomed three adorable snow leopard cubs on Memorial Day

Zoo officials say the cubs are currently in an off-view maternity den with their mother, 7-year-old Marai. Being out of sight will allow Marai to bond with her cubs and properly nurse them in a quiet environment. 

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Snow leopard Marai with her three newborn cubs (Photo: Woodland Park Zoo)

Snow leopard cubs are born helpless and are initially unable to open their eyes. The cubs are expected to nurse with Marai for about two to three months before they are ready for solid food. Even though Marai is a first-time mother, staff at the zoo say she is doing an amazing job.

'As a first-time mother, Marai has amazed us with the level of care she's providing her cubs,' said Chris Scheetz, an animal keeper at Woodland Park Zoo. 'Given how vocal and active the cubs already are, we’re excited for guests to see them later this summer, and we expect they will bring a lot of energy and excitement to the snow leopard habitat.'

This is the first litter for Marai and the father, 6-year-old Aibek, under the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan, a breeding program with accredited zoos that helps ensure a self-sustaining population of the species. 

Snow leopards Marai and Aibek at Woodland Park Zoo. (Photo: Woodland Park Zoo)

Snow leopards are currently listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List and are native to high mountain ranges in Central Asia and Russia. Their population is estimated to be between 4,000 and 6,390.

'These cubs are critical to help sustain a healthy population of snow leopards at zoos around the world, and they will become incredible conservation ambassadors for their wild relatives,' said Erin Sullivan, an animal curator at Woodland Park Zoo.

When can we see the snow leopard cubs at Woodland Park Zoo?

According to WPZ, the snow leopard cubs will not make their debut for at least a couple more months, which is anticipated to be later this summer. 

Until then, zoo visitors can see Aibek and his mother, 19-year-old Helen, at the exhibit.


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