Significant, Successful Breeding Plan Achieved
Como Zoo’s snow leopard cub now has a name: Asha! Asha, which means hope in Sanskrit and other Himalayan region languages, was selected by the family of winning bidder, Mr. Scott Dongoske, at Sunset Affair, Como Friends large fundraising gala. The naming generated a lot of interest and helped the auction top a record-breaking $100,000 this year! The funds raised support continued improvements and operations of Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, and its education and conservation programs.
Mr. Scott Dongoske has generously supported Como Park Zoo & Conservatory for decades and has been a Como Friends Board Member for many of those years. He and his family are no strangers to naming Como’s animals. In the past he and his family have been top bidders for naming a sea lion, reindeer, artic fox and more. “I have a passion for animals and a deep interest in conservation and exotic animals” said Mr. Dongoske. “Naming the animals is a fun, family event for us. Everyone gets a vote”.
Asha, born April 30th, is the first snow leopard birth at Como Zoo since 2007. Asha is the first cub to four-year-old mother, Alya, and six-year-old father, Moutig, Como Zoo’s adult snow leopards who arrived from Europe in 2017.
Alya and Asha are being housed in an off-exhibit maternity den where they can bond and which allows for proper nursing and care in a quiet space. They are both being closely monitored over a closed-circuit video system. Veterinary and zookeeper staff have observed that Alya is exhibiting exceptional care of Asha and displaying positive maternal behaviors. Newborn cubs are entirely dependent on their mothers and in the wild do not leave the protection of their dens until about three months of age. Alya and her cub are off exhibit until later this summer when the cub would be routinely leaving the nest area and coordinated enough to navigate the habitat.
The snow leopard pair, Moutig from France, and Alya from Germany, came to Como Zoo in 2017. With genetic lines not well represented outside of Europe, the pair was selected for placement in North America through a rigorous selection process that attracted applications from zoos around the country. Como Zoo was eventually chosen to receive the breeding pair. Minnesota’s cold climate played a part in the selection, as did Como Zoo’s 60+ year history of raising and breeding these acutely threatened big cats.
This breeding was carefully planned and recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). Como Zoo is a longtime participant in the Snow Leopard SSP, which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the AZA. SSPs help to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered, and enhance conservation of these species in the wild.
Snow leopards are no longer classified as an endangered species, but its population in the wild is still at risk (classified as “vulnerable”) due to poaching, loss of prey, and the fragmentation of habitat. Como Zoo is committed to the preservation of this species, and is a longstanding member of the Snow Leopard Trust contributing funds to support research and programs aimed at protecting snow leopards and their natural habitat.
With their thick, cream-colored coats and gray-black spots, snow leopards camouflage so well within their rocky habitat high in the Himalayas that they are known as the “ghosts of the mountains.” With the ability to leap down heights of 60 feet, snow leopards are said to be the most agile of the “big cats.”