Cute & Cuddly Tourism
On May 24, 2012, as part of our ongoing tourism initiative for The Jersey Cape’s campaign, I was granted access to the zoo’s two newest residents. Soon to be named five week old snow leopard cubs. I captured one of the cubs first adventures into the wilds of the Cape May County Park and Zoo plus was lucky enough to carefully (and quietly) go behind the scenes and take some HD video of them relaxing with their mother. The video will be part of our 2012 tourism television and web campaign and some of my photographs will be used in the zoos promotion of the newborns.
From their press release:
The Cape May County Zoo is once again proud to announce the birth of Snow
Leopard Cubs on April 10th 2012 to our female ‘Himani’ and our male ‘Vijay’.
This is our 3rd consecutive year with cubs. In 2010 our first cubs were
born, males named ‘Sabu’ & ‘Kaba’. In 2011 we had one male cub born,
‘Nubo’. This year we have 2 cubs, one male and one female both yet unnamed.
We are breeding our pair of Snow Leopards under the direction of the AZA’s
Species Survival Program. All cubs produced are being sent to other AZA
accredited facilities so that they may propagate and strengthen the genetic
pool of the captive population.
Snow Leopards (Panthera Uncia) are one of the most endangered species of
wild cat on the planet with an estimated population of 4000-6000 individuals
left in the wild. Their population has declined by 20% over the past 2
generations, making Snow Leopards survival in the wild very precarious.
That is why Accredited Zoos, like the Cape May County Zoo, participate in a
captive breeding program to ensure the survivability of Snow Leopards in the
wild. Through the Species Survival Plan (SSP), genetically compatible
animals are matched up in hopes that they successfully produce offspring.
The offspring will then enter the SSP breeding program at other accredited
facilities and will continue to propagate, ensuring that genetically diverse
populations of animals exist in captivity. This captive population acts
like an insurance policy, if wild populations ever become unsustainable then
a very genetically strong population exists in Zoos that will allow for the
repatriation of animals back into the wild.
The Cape May County Zoo is proud to participate in this worthy program for
these extremely rare cats. There are approximately 150 Snow Leopards in
accredited zoos in North America. Historically the captive population of
Snow Leopards has been declining due to poor reproduction, but because of
strong leadership from the SSP, the captive population has been increasing
the past few years. Successful captive reproduction is still a rare event
though , with only 11 births in 2008, 14 births in 2009 and 11 births in
2010. The Cape May county Zoo is happy to have been one of those successes.
Having had successful breeding here, we are helping to diversify the
captive population and, in turn, helping the survivability of these great cats in the wild.