Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia)
Zoo collection will include: Two females and one male (Chocolate, Zoe and Bo).
Found in the wild: Central Asia - Mountain grasslands, scrub, and open forest
See Them at the Central Park Zoo: At the top most portion of the temperate zone, north of the red pandas.
Description: Snow leopards are well adapted to the cold climate of their homeland. They have long body hair with an under-layer of dense fur that can be up to five inches thick. This plush coat is colored to blend in with the snowy, rocky surroundings: gray and white with black spots. They have a well-developed chest, short forelimbs, and a three-foot-long tail that helps them keep their balance. Snow leopards stand about two feet tall. Males weigh up to 120 pounds, while females are somewhat smaller, weighing up to 90 pounds. They have a relatively small head with a short, broad nose that has a large nasal cavity that passes cold air through and warms it. Huge paws have fur on the bottom that protects and cushions their feet for walking, climbing, and jumping. The furry paws also give the cat great traction on snow. Short, well-developed front legs and chest muscles help with balance when climbing. The snow leopard's incredibly long and beautiful tail also helps with balance and is sometimes as long as the cat's body. Smoky gray and blurred black markings provide the snow leopard with superb camouflage in the mountains.
What do they eat: Their favored prey are blue sheep and ibex (wild goats), but they also feed on domestic animals such as horses. Some of these animals are bigger than the snow leopards themselves. In fact, these cats can bring down prey three times their weight. Though large animals make up most of their diet, snow leopards also hunt smaller prey, including marmots, hares, and birds.
Life span: 15-18 years
Threats: Endangered. It's been estimated that the wild population numbers only 4,500 to 7,500 animals. They are hunted for their coats as well as their bones, which are ground up and used in traditional Chinese medicine. They compete for food with people, who often kill snow leopard's favored prey. And when the cats turn to domestic livestock for food, they're often shot by ranchers.
Fun Facts: This beautiful cat is able to leap 50 feet horizontally and jump 20 feet vertically! Snow leopards are solitary, spending most of their time alone. The only exceptions are moms caring for their dependent offspring, and males and females pairing up for mating season. The snow leopard does not roar, rather it meows and purrs. Their vocal tract lacks the thick pad of elastic tissue that enables other cats to roar. A snow leopard's eye color -- pale green or gray -- is very unusual for cats. A nickname for the snow leopard is "Ounce". The snow leopard is the only animal that’s Latin name is two of the same words. The snow leopards’ teeth are over four inches long.