A new furball arrived at St. Paul’s Como Zoo in recent weeks: a cub born to snow leopards Alya and Moutig.
It’s a second cub for the pair, who are part of national effort to preserve and bolster the vulnerable, iconic species that is native to the Himalayas and other mountain ranges of central Asia.
Alya and her yet-to-be-named cub haven’t been seen in public yet. They’re resting in an off-exhibit, behind-the-scenes maternity den at the zoo. Officials there say cubs in the wild stay in their dens for about three months as they nurse, grow and get ready to greet the world.
“Veterinary and zookeeper staff have observed that Alya has been an excellent, protective mother displaying positive maternal behaviors and is exhibiting exceptional care of her cub,” Como Zoo said in a statement on Thursday. “The cub is growing rapidly and has started to explore her environment.”
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She’s expected to be out in the zoo’s Big Cat exhibit later this summer.
The cub’s parents came to Como in 2017 — Alya from Germany and Moutig from France — as part of a species survival plan developed by zoos around the world. Como applied to be part of a North American breeding program, specifically offering a winter season for the cats that Como said are acutely threatened in the wild, although no longer formally considered endangered. Como has a decades-long history of helping breed and preserve the leopards.
Snow leopards are considered among the most agile of wild cats. Their populations continue to be threatened by loss of habitat, poaching and loss of prey. The snow leopards join tigers, lions and cougars at Como, including Jasper, the mountain lion who recently had his eyes removed after disease ravaged his sight.
The opportunity to name the new cub will be auctioned off as part of a major fundraising gala planned for July.