Zaya and Attan - The Big Cat Sanctuary

Zaya and Attan

Panthera Uncia/Snow LeopardsVulnerable

Interesting facts about Zaya and Attan

  • On 1 July 2023, Laila gave birth for the third time to two cubs, a boy and girl, Attan and Zaya. The birth went smoothly, and Laila took to parenthood perfectly once again
  • On arrival, Zaya was the larger of the two cubs. The cat team observed closely via CCTV to check they were feeding well and doing all that we would expect them to!
  • As the days passed, identification marks were noted, health and weight checks took place and we watched the cubs change on a daily basis!
  • It wasn't long before the babies began to play in the cubbing den, readily identifiable as tiny snow leopards: very fluffy with beautiful dappled markings
  • At a few weeks of age, Attan (above) overtook his sister in size. They became much more playful, began to eat meat and were keen to venture into the outside enclosure
  • At around 14 weeks of age, Zaya (above) and Attan got to see what the outside world looked like after their vaccinations were complete. Introduction to Yarko (their dad) happened a few months later when they were larger and more sturdy

Zaya and Attan's story

The arrival of two snow leopard cubs on 1st July 2023 made mum and dad Laila and Yarko parents for the third time! This time, the story had been slightly different as we knew there was at least one cub due – we’d been able to carry out an ultrasound scan on Laila to check for pregnancy prior to the birth!

Laila had been trained to be comfortable enough for the team to scan her tummy while conscious – an incredible moment. And within two weeks, Laila delivered two cubs! We were delighted to welcome a brother and sister – including Laila’s first female cub!

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About snow leopards

Snow leopards have extra-long dense fur, small ears, a stocky build, and a long tail that doubles up as a scarf when sleeping – all features that make them experts at retaining body heat. They also have large wide paws for walking steadily in snow.

Dappled shades of grey, yellow and creamy white give snow leopards the perfect disguise for their natural habitat’s rocky terrain. As they move across the mountainous peaks and valleys of the Himalayas and surrounding foothills they are almost invisible to the human eye – hence their nickname: ‘the ghost of the mountains’.

With a global population estimated at fewer than 2,500 mature breeding individuals, snow leopards are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

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More about snow leopards

The snow leopard typically lives at elevations of around 3,000-4,500 metres in arid and semi-arid shrub land and grassland. In Russia and parts of the Tian Shan in China, they live in open coniferous forest. Generally, however, they avoids dense forest, preferring steep terrain broken by cliffs, ridges, gullies and rocky outcrops.

Snow leopards can kill prey up to three times their own weight, and must kill a large animal about once every fortnight to survive. They hunt ibex, deer, boars, marmots and other small rodents, but sometimes turn to domestic livestock when wild prey is scarce. Across its range, the snow leopard is hunted for its highly-prized pelt and bones, despite its protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Snow leopards are persecuted because they sometimes prey on domestic livestock. This is partly due to a declining prey base, which has been over-hunted by herders under the misperception that the prey species compete with domestic livestock for forage. Occasionally this leads to the retaliatory killing of snow leopards by herders protecting their livelihoods. As grazing pressure intensifies from an increasing population of domestic livestock, snow leopard-human conflict is an ever increasing threat to the snow leopard’s survival.

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IUCN Red List Category Vulnerable(VU)

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