Conservation Partner Update: Snow Leopard Trust

Conservation Action Round-Up Engagement (CARE) grants provide full-time Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden staff members the opportunity to identify and fund conservation projects that they believe are worthy of the Zoo’s support. One of the 2017 grantees was the Snow Leopard Trust, a Seattle-based organization dedicated to protecting the species “through community-based conservation projects that are based on an improved scientific understanding of snow leopard behavior, needs, habitats and threats”. Michael Despines, executive director, recently shared an update highlighting milestones the group achieved in 2017, thanks in part to the support from the OKC Zoo:

In April, we placed GPS collars on three snow leopards. One of the collared cats—a young female—led us to a rare active den. Researchers were able to weigh and measure two healthy newborn cubs, a male and female.

Field teams in India launched a new program for environmentally sustainable cashmere. We successfully piloted this program in three villages in northern India involving 135 herders.  

In Mongolia, the government finished defining boundaries for the Tost Nature Reserve—the first Protected Areas in the country designated specifically for snow leopards.

The OKC Zoo is home to two snow leopards, available for viewing in the Cat Forest habitat. Tom, 11, is a male snow leopard who came to the Zoo in 2014. Female Milenka, 9, came to the Zoo in 2016. Snow leopards thrive in cooler months. They have access to their indoor habitat anytime temperatures are 85 degrees or higher and are rarely seen in their outdoor habitat during the warmer months.

In the wild, snow leopards reside in remote, rugged, mountainous regions of Central Asia. The species can grow up to five feet, not including the two- to three-foot-long tail, and can weigh between 60 and 120 pounds. They use their long tails for balance and are able jump as far as 50 feet. In 2017, the International Union for Conservation of Nature re-classified the snow leopard from endangered to vulnerable. However, with an estimated population of 4,000 in the wild, the species still faces a high risk of extinction due to poaching and habitat loss.

When you visit the Zoo, don't forget to Round Up for Conservation and help support conservation projects like this! Guests can become everyday conservationists by simply rounding up their total to the next dollar when making purchases at the Zoo. 

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