News | 13 June 2023
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The snow-down on Snow Leopards at Wellington Zoo

Snow Leopards, Asha and Manju, are the coolest cats in town. These lovely kitties were born in 2020, and recently made the move from Melbourne Zoo to Wellington. With people flocking to see them in their new purpose-built home, Wellington Zoo has shared 10 fun facts about Snow Leopards.

Snow Leopard at the Zoo standing on a rock.

1. What’s in a name? Snow Leopards get their name from the colour of their fur! The population of these wonderful cats is sparsely distributed over 12 countries in Central Asia.

2. These cats are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and there are thought to be 3,500 -7,000 in the world. 

3. Only weighing approximately 30 kilograms, they are known as ghost cats or ghost of the mountains as they are elusive and well hidden!  

4. They are well-suited to steep rocky habitats, so their new Wellington Zoo habitat is perfect for them. Their habitat is a $6 million development, designed especially for Snow Leopards. Construction took about 18 months, with Asha and Manju moving into their new enclosure in April 2023. 

Close up of a Snow Leopard behind a glass pane.

5. They can handle a variety of climates, and what they’re used to is actually very similar to Wellington. They are well adapted to the cold as the fur on their sides and back can be up to 5cm long, and on their bellies it can be up to 12cm long. They have long thick tails that they use wrapped around themselves like a blanket.

6. Snow Leopards can’t roar –  they yowl, growl, mew and chuff. They’re actually more closely related to tigers than leopards.

7. Snow leopards can leap up to 9 metres! They have powerful back legs that help them jump and climb up mountains.

Snow Leopard on a rock with it's tongue poking out.

8. Snow Leopards are an apex predator and play a key role in maintaining biodiversity in the ecosystem. If a Snow Leopard habitat is protected, other animals living in these eco-systems will thrive. 

9. Snow Leopards are under threat due to various reasons, including poaching due to illegal trade in pelts and body parts, habitat loss, loss of prey species and retaliatory killing due to predation on livestock. 

10. Wellington Zoo supports Nepali Conservation Group, Mountain Spirit. Mountain Spirit work with mountain communities to help protect the Nepali population of wild Snow Leopards by reducing human/animal conflict. 

Head to Wellington Zoo to see these amazing cats in action.