Zoo finds sign of hope

Zoo finds sign of hope

February 22nd, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Less than a month after Chattanooga Zoo icon Hank the chimpanzee died, officials showed off its rare snow leopard cub.

The zoo wants the public to suggest names for the female leopard cub, born Jan. 10, about a week before Hank's death on Jan. 23. Zoo officials ask that name suggestions be submitted to the zoo by April 25.

"While no one would ever replace Hank, I think she gives us something to cheer about and to be excited about," said Darde Long, director of the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park.

The snow leopard will be in the animal exhibit area for the first time on Saturday. However, the mother may carry the cub out of public view, officials said.

"She may pick her up and carry her right in and we won't see her again until she feels comfortable," Long said. "Right now, it's all about making sure mom's bond stays good and that the cub stays healthy."

About 70 percent of snow leopards born in captivity die, Long said. The celebrated cub at Chattanooga Zoo is the only survivor of three cubs born to the mother leopard in January.

Long calls the successful birth a sign of hope for the staff and community.

During a media event Monday, the cub was taken from her enclosure to be weighed, carried like a small sack of potatoes in the crook of zookeeper Lisa Flood's arms.

Still damp around the neck from her mother's care, she was 5 pounds and exactly 6 weeks old on Monday.

Zoo officials said she licked meat for the first time last week, but didn't chew it.

Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press Lisa Flood, a zoo keeper at Chattanooga Zoo holds the zoo's 6 week-old Snow Leopard cub during her check-up at the zoo Monday. Her January birthday is rare among the breed. Most snow leopards begin breeding in late winter and give birth late spring or early summer.

Her diet is still mostly her mother's milk, said Flood, who slept overnight at the zoo the night the three snow leopard cubs were born and found them all the next morning.

Flood assisted in the leopard's physical on Monday.

Zookeeper Steven Lawrence drew the cub's heartworm medicine in a syringe and Flood put it in the cub's mouth.

Flood picked her off the table and held her closely as a few visitors touched her grayish-brown spotted fur. The cub's fur shook as she nervously backed away from the crowd watching her.

"She's so beautiful," Long said. "And so unique."

Grace Condra, 9, was among several people walking through the zoo Monday as the media event for the cub was taking place.

"I love snow leopards," said the Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School student. "I like every animal in this zoo."

PICKING A NAME

To suggest a name for the female snow leopard cub, Director Darde Long said to write it on a piece of paper and drop it off at the zoo's gift shop by April 25. The address is 301 N. Holtzclaw Ave.