We’re deeply saddened to share this news with you:
One of our precious snow leopard triplets did not survive his turbulent first weeks.
Unfortunately, we had to make the difficult but humane decision to euthanize the male cub yesterday after we determined that the little guy had multiple, severe heart defects that were causing early heart failure.
Dr. Darin Collins, the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, tells us that it’s very rare to encounter disease concerns in the zoo’s newborn animals that are too severe for modern medicine to overcome, but in this case, there were no surgical or drug treatment options available.
As you can imagine, we are heartbroken by this loss. But our dedicated zookeepers and veterinary team have the two surviving sisters to focus on, especially as the girls are facing their own challenges.
|Volunteer veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Sullivan examines a female cub’s eyes. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.|
All three cubs have been diagnosed with congenital eyelid defects, also known as colobomas, a malformation in which a portion of the structure of the eye is lacking. Our vet crew teamed up with Dr. Tom Sullivan, the zoo’s volunteer veterinary ophthalmologist with the Animal Eye Clinic (Seattle), to perform the first of multiple minor procedures to the eyelids, which involved tightening the loose and folding eyelid tissue with sutures.
Dr. Sullivan will perform additional corrective surgery when the cubs are 3 to 4 months old. Their father, Tom, was born with this same condition and snow leopards at other zoos have been reported to have colobomas.
The overall prognosis for our two girls is good but guarded, as there is the potential for complications that we’ll have to monitor for as Dr. Sullivan returns weekly for re-checks.
Helen continues to be a very attentive mother and is providing excellent care for the cubs, who despite it all, are gaining weight and developing mostly as expected. The young family will have to adjust to the loss of the male cub, but we expect Helen to continue bonding and nursing with her remaining cubs based on the strong maternal care she’s shown already. Helen and Tom did sire two healthy cubs in May of 2009, so she has experience.
Female cub recovers from her procedure before being returned to mom. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.
Snow leopards are endangered in the wild, and their birth at the zoo is cause for celebration, introducing a new generation of wildlife ambassadors to help inspire zoo visitors to join us in conservation efforts to save this incredible species.
It’s heartbreaking for us to see this beautiful family struggle so much in these early weeks, and we appreciate your support as we monitor their progress and do all we can to give these cubs a healthy, quality life in spite of their challenges.