Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo Welcomes Snow Leopard Cub

A newborn snow leopard cub at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo carries forward the legacy of conservation pioneer and Snow Leopard Trust founder Helen Freeman.

[Update, 08/04/17: It turns out that Woodland Park Zoo’s 1-month-old snow leopard is a boy, not a girl as reported two weeks ago during its neonatal exam. The zoo’s veterinary team performed a second veterinary exam and, in addition to discovering he’s a male, gave the cub a clean bill of health.]

The female male cub, which has not yet been given a name, was born on July 6 at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.

Animal Collection Manager Deanna Debo handles the 2-week-old cub during its neonatal exam. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

The cub’s mother is named Helen, after pioneering conservationist Helen Freeman, the late founder of the Snow Leopard Trust.

Helen and her cub are currently in an off-view maternity den to allow bonding and proper nursing in a quieter setting. Zoo staff watch the mother and cub through a closed-circuit monitoring system to watch for normal behaviors. The zoo anticipates putting the cub in the outdoor, on-view exhibit with her mother in late September.

Woodland Park Zoo and the Snow Leopard Trust

Helen Freeman’s interest in Snow Leopards began while she was a volunteer docent at the Woodland Park Zoo. The zoo acquired two Snow Leopards, named Nicholas and Alexandra, from the Soviet Union in 1972.

Helen Freeman with her beloved snow leopards at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: SLT

Freeman eventually became the curator of education at the Woodland Park Zoo – a position she held when she founded the Snow Leopard Trust in 1981. Under Helen’s leadership, the Trust established snow leopard conservation and research programs in five key range countries, and fostered close relationships with the international conservation community.

Woodland Park Zoo has remained a close and important ally throughout the organization’s 36 years of existence.

“Today, Woodland Park Zoo is a key conservation partner in our effort to protect snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan”, says Michael Despines, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director.

Under this conservation partnership, researchers have set up camera traps set up in the Sarychat Ertash nature reserve to monitor the area’s snow leopard population. “We estimate that there are around 18 cats living in the area”, Despines says. The study is part of the Trust’s larger effort to assess the global snow leopard population and understand its trends in different parts of the cat’s range.

A wild snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan’s Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve, where Woodland Park Zoo and the Snow Leopard Trust are working together to protect these cats. Photo: SLF Kyrygzstan / SAEPF / SLT

“Helen’s cub at Woodland Park Zoo will be a wonderful ambassador for its wild cousins, and we’re very excited to welcome her to the world and to our backyard!”

You can learn more about snow leopards, the Trust, and our conservation partnership with Woodland Park Zoo on Asian Wildlife Conservation Day on Aug. 12.

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