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Snow Leopard Cub Born
at the Milwaukee County Zoo

Snow leopard cub

Posted July 2020

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Snow leopard cubThe snow leopard cub has been named! Thanks to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, who was instrumental in bringing both mother, Orya, and father, Asa, to the Milwaukee County Zoo, has chosen the name Milja (MEE-lah) for the snow leopard cub. The name Milja honors the cub’s grandmother, Dshamilja, and the importance of her genetic lines. This genetic diversity has been passed along to Milja, which makes her a very valuable snow leopard and an ambassador for her wild counterparts.

We’re happy to report the snow leopard cub is growing and developing well and will receive her next set of vaccinations in early August. Each time the keepers have separated her from mom, Orya, the cub is checked over, making sure she’s developing as she should, which includes checks for walking and reflexes.

Interestingly, Orya’s mother, Dshamilja (a wild-born snow leopard), passed away in 2019 which makes our cub the newest generation of the important genetic line. Because zoos no longer take animals from the wild, it’s especially important for these “founder” animals to breed and carry on the legacy. Orya is very important to the North American zoo population, as her genes are new to the population, therefore creating greater genetic diversity.

Sadly, snow leopards are currently facing threats from poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

Snow leopard cubSerious about Snows?
Visit the website for the Snow Leopard Trust, the largest and oldest organization working solely to protect the endangered snow leopard and its habitat in 12 countries of Central Asia.

Learn what you can do to become a part of snow leopard conservation: snowleopard.org.

The Milwaukee County Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of a female snow leopard cub on May 11.  The cub, who is not yet named, is the first offspring for mother, Oyra, and father, Asa.  Animal care staff report the cub is doing well in the off-exhibit den with her mother. She will be 2 months old tomorrow, July 11.

She has been weighed several times since her birth, and on July 8, she weighed about 8 pounds. (For exams and weight checks, she’s separated from her mother no more than 5 minutes each time.)  During this exam, the cub received her first vaccinations, and an ophthalmologist was on hand to check a minor eye issue. Her vision is fine.

Snow leopard cubZookeepers report the cub is regularly nursing from mom and will continue to do so until she’s a few months old.  She’ll get her first taste of meat soon.  At a few months of age, she’ll also receive her own diet of solid food.  Both the cub and Orya will remain off-exhibit for several more weeks to bond and benefit from “quiet time.”

Orya, who is 6 years old, arrived in 2016 from Zoo Zurich in Switzerland.  Orya is the second of two snow leopards acquired by MCZ as a result of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Gifts to the Community, a program that offered special opportunities and experiences throughout the region.  The first snow leopard was the cub’s father, Asa.  Asa, who is also 6 years old, arrived here in 2015 from the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.

Because Orya’s mother, Dshamilja, was born in the wild, and was part of the European Endangered Species Programme, her genetic lines are considered valuable and will be passed on to the new cub.  The last snow leopard birth at MCZ was in 2014.

The Milwaukee County Zoo’s Amazon Wish List for the new cub features enrichment items to help in her development and enhance her natural instincts and behaviors.  To view the list and/or donate, please click here.

Photo Gallery

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Recent video of snow leopard cub in den with mom, Orya