Two snow leopards born at Phila. Zoo
Targets of poaching and victimized by a lack of prey, as few as 3,500 snow leopards roam the entire world. For zoophiles, it's a familiar battle - a struggle to save the endangered species one new cub at a time.
Or, in Philadelphia's case, two at a time.
In a first, two snow leopard cubs have been born at the Philadelphia Zoo, officials announced Wednesday.
"They're precious, precious, precious children," said Tammy Schmidt, the zoo's curator of carnivores. "It's an honor for us as a zoo when it's an endangered species. We're not only helping ourselves and our visitors, but we're helping sustain their populations for future generations."
The cubs' 3-year-old mother, Maya, gave birth to the pair this month. Because they haven't fully opened their eyes yet - normal for cubs - Maya remains at their side all day to protect her first litter.
All three animals are in good health, Schmidt said, and will likely go on public display in the first week of August. In the meantime, caretakers are giving the animals plenty of space, which is also why they haven't yet determined the cubs' sex.
At birth, the cubs weighed between 0.5 and 1.5 pounds each. They will grow to more than 100 pounds. The species is naturally found in Asia and the Middle East.
Although the cats are isolated from the public, a YouTube video posted by the zoo shows one of the cubs exploring its pen under the eye of its mother.
The babies' father lives at the Denver Zoo and won't be brought to Philadelphia. Male snow leopards don't stick around to raise cubs, so caretakers are letting Maya raise them alone.
The zoo got its first snow leopard in 1914. Despite having 21 since then, no cubs had ever been born there.
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