The Santa Barbara Zoo will introduce two endangered snow leopards to its collection tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.
There will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony tomorrow morning to introduce the leopards, and zoo keepers will be at the exhibit to answer questions visitors might have about the endangered species. There will also be crafts and raffles for those in attendance throughout the day.
Julia McHugh, the zoo’s Public Relations Director, said the zoo hopes to breed the two leopards. The zoo received a 13-year-old female from Lake Superior Zoo in Minnesota and a six-year-old male from Louisville Zoo in Kentucky. McHugh said the American Zoo and Aquarium Association helped match the leopards as a part of the Species Survival Plan to help propagate endangered species.
“The leopards are highly endangered,” McHugh said. “To get to breed them is huge.”
The two leopards have been housed in separate holding units for the past 30 days and have not been introduced yet, McHugh said. They can see and smell each other, but they will not be in the same exhibit until the zookeeper’s decide they are comfortable together.
McHugh said the leopards will inhabit the cage previously occupied by a 19-year-old lion, Kali, who was recently moved across the zoo to an African exhibit. Because the habitat of the area was unsuitable for snow leopards, zookeepers adapted the area to better resemble the mammal’s original habitat. The species, originally from Asia, are found near the Himalayan Mountains and need climate adaptation to warmer weather. To create a more suitable environment for the animals, the zoo has been rearranging rock structures and plants to resemble a habitat more natural to snow leopards.
“They have changed the ambiance from African, and the whole area will be Asian,” McHugh said. “The area is called Wings of Asia. We have Amur Leopards and we will be getting a Komodo Dragon.”
The zoo is located at 500 Ninos Dr. and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the week. Admissions to the zoo are $7 for children under 13 and $9 for adults.