Rare snow leopards born at Norfolk zoo

Stephanie BrooksKeepers at a popular Norfolk zoo are delighted after three rare snow leopards were born at the park.Stephanie Brooks

Keepers at a popular Norfolk zoo are delighted after three rare snow leopards were born at the park.

The three little cubs, born at Banham Zoo, will one day play a vital role in the European breeding programme which aims to preserve the critically endangered species.

The new arrivals have provided a happy start to the summer after zoo staff were left heartbroken by the sudden death of tigress Malyshaka, who drowned in her enclosure pool last month.

The cubs' parents are Rocky and Enif, who were paired together in 2008 after Enif was flown from Tokyo Zoo, in Japan, at the request of the snow leopard studbook co-ordinator. She is one of the five most important breeding snow leopards in Europe.

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Keepers first noticed some mating activity last year, but as Enif was only four years old she did not conceive.

Following several successful matings this year, staff were sure their precious female was pregnant and began making preparations for the birth.

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A purpose built cubbing box, complete with four CCTV cameras, was built to allow staff to monitor the cubs progress during their first few days.

A monitor has now been mounted outside giving visitors the unique opportunity to see the newborns when normally they would be hidden from view.

The cubs will remain at the zoo for at least 18 months after which they will be mature enough to be transferred to other zoos within European breeding programme.

Snow leopards are native to the central and southern mountain ranges of Asia.

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