* What: Snow Leopard Appreciation Day.
* When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17.
* Where: Chattanooga Zoo, 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave.
* Admission: Free with gate admission ($8.95 adults, $6.95 seniors, $5.95 children ages 3-12).
* Phone: 697-1322.
* Website: www.chattzoo.org.
Eastern sandhill cranes annually stop at the Hiwassee Refuge near Birchwood on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida, but area residents soon will be able to see two of the birds year-round at the Chattanooga Aboretum & Nature Center. The center at 400 Garden Road is in the process of building a permanent enclosure for the animals, but no date has been given for their arrival. "The refuge is the best place to see the wild sandhill cranes during their migration," said Tish Gailmard, wildlife curator at the center, "but the Chattanooga Arboretum & Nature Center will soon be the best place to view sandhill cranes up close." Center officials said they welcome any donations to help with the project. For information about the center, visit www.chattanoogaanc.org.
Think of it as the Cotton Ball for snow leopards.
The 6-week-old snow leopard cubs -- a girl, Maliha, and boy, Everest -- born last month at Chattanooga Zoo will make their public debut with Snow Leopard Appreciation Day at the Warner Park facility on Saturday, Nov. 17.
"I think everybody's really going to love them," said Marisa Ogle, director of marketing and communications. "They're adorable."
The day will include snow leopard education activities and giveaways, snowmen blowing faux snow, snow-like shaved ice provided by Tennessee Valley Ice for the cubs to romp through and cocoa for all oohing and ahing cub watchers.
The cubs, born Oct. 2, are the second litter for zoo residents Czar and Kasimir. Their first cub, Renji, was born Jan. 10, 2011, and now resides at the Cincinnati Zoo as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan program's breeding efforts.
Snow leopards are considered highly endangered, with only 4,000 to 6,000 remaining in the wild, according to zoo officials. Their high death rates in the wild have been attributed to poaching, retribution killings and vanishing habitats. But efforts at breeding snow leopards in captivity have been only marginally successful due to their highly solitary lifestyles and low birth survival rate.
Maliha and Everest are "little bundles of fur" with blue eyes and big paws, according to Ogle. "They are little puffballs with eyes."
Maliha weighs 2,000 grams and Everest 1,600 grams, she said. Both have similar coloring with "black rosettes on white" fur, which is "soft and thick," she said.
"The girl is a little bit of a chunker," Ogle said, "but the boy is catching up quickly. They're both really active."
They're so cute, she said, "they're ridiculous."
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