Cubs caper at Chattanooga Zoo

Cubs caper at Chattanooga Zoo

November 18th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Stella, left, and Tida, right Bagby watch Chattanooga Zoo snow leopard Kasimir during the zoo's first Snow Leopard Appreciation Day on Saturday. The event featured the public debut of Kasimir's 6-week old cubs, Maliha and Everest.

Photo by Allison Love/Times Free Press.

Snow leopard cubs Maliha and Everest sit on a table at the Chattanooga Zoo. The cubs were introduced to the public Saturday at the zoo's first Snow Leopard Appreciation Day.

Photo by Allison Love/Times Free Press.

Six-pound Maliha is more adventurous than her 5-pound brother, often walking right up to the mesh that separates her enclosure at the Chattanooga Zoo from her father's.

But her brother, Everest, doesn't like being left behind.

"When you hear screeching, it's usually because he was left," Chattanooga Zoo CEO Darde Long said.

The two 6-week-old snow leopard cubs made their public debut Saturday in front of a steady crowd of zoo visitors.

"They're just like kittens in so many ways, but bigger," Long said. "Which makes them more clumsy, but also interesting to watch."

Freelance photographer Mark Heardon said he caught sight of the cubs while they were nursing.

"They are just adorable," he said. "They look like a leopard, but they are lighter -- white and gray. They were both kind of relaxed; they weren't out walking around."

Long said the cubs came out of their den to play and nurse, then went back in to take a nap during their first day in the public eye.

"For 6-week-old cubs, they've been pretty active all day," she said.

Josh Maley drove up from Georgia to see what everyone was talking about -- but happened to stop by the exhibit while the cubs were napping in their den and didn't get to see them. But he said he didn't mind missing them.

"There's a lot of other animals around here that are very similar, like the jaguars, the cougars," he said. "It's really cool -- I don't think I've seen a snow leopard before -- but it's not like, 'Oh my goodness, it's so amazing.' It's just different."

Wild snow leopards live in the Himalaya mountains and are endangered because of poaching, habitat encroachment and local hunting, Long said. Between 4,000 and 6,000 still live in the wild.

She added that the cubs are a great way to raise awareness about efforts to protect wild snow leopards.

"It's the only way we can teach and inspire people to really and truly appreciate these animals and make sure they are around for generations," she said. "Because they are magnificent."

Another snow leopard cub was born to the same parents, Czar and Kasimir, at the zoo about a year and half ago. Renji, a female, now lives in the Cincinnati Zoo and recently was paired with a mate for breeding.

Long said Everest and Maliha most likely eventually will leave Chattanooga, as well.