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Calgary Zoo celebrates arrival of second snow leopard
Published Friday, January 29, 2016 1:49PM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 29, 2016 4:54PM MST
The snow leopard enclosure at the Calgary Zoo has a second resident following the arrival of Leika, an 18-month-old feline from Europe.
“She was born at a zoo in Austria and we’ve been working very hard to get her here to Calgary to be part of a species survival plan,” explained Matt Korhonen, a Calgary Zoo curator. “She’s going to be a part of a breeding program that will help add genetic diversity to a critically endangered species.”
There are only a few thousand snow leopards left in the wild as human encroachment jeopardizes their habitat in Central Asia while hunters, poachers and trappers target the majestic cats.
Leika joins 17-year-old Karesh, the zoo’s male snow leopard, in the display and interactions between the two cats indicate the animals will be compatible in their new living arrangement.
“It’s actually pretty hilarious,” said Korhonen. “He’s all over her, super happy about his new companion, licking her head and trying to be affectionate with her and she pretty much completely ignores him.”
Calgary Zoo officials do not expect the two animals will breed as Karesh is very old for a snow leopard while Leika is extremely young. Potential mating partners for Leika are being discussed amongst zoos involved in the species survival plan.
Korhonen says Leika has adapted well to her new surroundings.
“She’s relaxed, she’s calm,” said Korhonen.“She was raised in an environment in Austria similar to this in that she’s around people a lot.”
“She’s eating really well. She’s not showing any signs of stress.”
Zoo visitors had their first chance to see Leika on Tuesday following weeks where the snow leopard was in quarantine and introduced to zoo keepers and Karesh.