Raktima Bose

It marks yet another success in breeding programme

The 13-year-old female was rescued from Ladakh in 1997

The gender could not be ascertained as the cubs are with their mother in a separate area

Kolkata: News of the birth of three snow leopard cubs at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling in West Bengal might bring some cheer to conservationists, given the dwindling numbers of the animal in the wild.

“A female snow leopard gave birth to a litter of three cubs last month, marking yet another success in the snow leopard breeding programme in the zoo,” A.K. Jha, director of PNHZP, told The Hindu over telephone from Darjeeling.

The 13-year-old female snow leopard, which gave birth to the cubs, was rescued from Ladakh in 1997 by the zoo authorities and has given birth four times since.

Mr. Jha said the gender of the cubs could not be ascertained till now as they were now with their mother in a separate quarter to avoid human contact. The zoo already has 10 snow leopards — five male and five female.

Mr. Jha said talks were on with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to bring over another leopard that was rescued in Ladakh two months ago.

The PNHZP is the only zoological park in the country that has successfully carried out the breeding programme of endangered snow leopards, in addition to red pandas and Tibetan wolves.

Census

Snow leopards are found in the upper ranges of the Himalayan range in Ladakh, Sikkim and Nepal. An endangered species, no specific census has ever been done on the number of animals left in the wild.

Mr. Jha said the Ministry of Environment and Forests is about to undertake a project of snow leopard census in the country very soon.