October 27, 2020
You may have noticed that Silver and Timila are no longer sharing space together on exhibit. In nature snow leopard cubs leave their mothers at 18-22 months and become independent. We have been observing Silver and Timila’s behavior closely over the last few months in anticipation that they may become less compatible, especially as the next breeding season approaches.
To prepare Silver for the inevitable separation and move to another institution, we have been separating them for increasing lengths of time so that it would be easier for Silver to adjust. About four weeks ago, Timila’s behavior led us to the decision that the time had come for them to be permanently separated. Timila was avoiding Silver, vocalizing at him, posturing defensively, and occasionally swatting at him. Eventually, the Snow Leopard SSP will make a recommendation for Silver to move to another Zoo to start a family of his own.
Except for mothers with cubs and during breeding season (generally January to March), snow leopards are solitary in nature. Although snow leopards in human care are often compatible year-round, this is why Timila and Kaba have not been together outside of breeding season. If we receive a recommendation to breed this year from the Snow Leopard SSP, we will monitor Timila and Kaba’s behavior, and we will reintroduce them when the time is right. However, if we suspect Timila is pregnant, we will separate them as her due date approaches since male snow leopards do not participate in cub rearing. Monitoring behavior closely allows us to make management decisions that maximize their welfare. Since this would only be Timila and Kaba’s second breeding season, we have to rely on their behavior and the limited experience from their first breeding season to make the best decisions.
While all three snow leopards are separated at this time, they each have equal access to the different areas of the habitat. They also are able to see each other and interact safely through mesh. Each animal is provided enrichment and training, and welfare is monitored closely.
– Kellee Wolowitz, Assistant Curator
Header photo – Timila, by Wayne Smith