A picture of the two snow leopards shortly after they were born. Photo courtesy of the Akron Zoo.
AKRON -- The Akron Zoo is celebrating a historic moment by announcing that a pair of snow leopards have been born at the zoo for the first time ever.
The yet-to-be-named male cubs were born on May 14, but will remain in a "cubbing area" with their mother until they're ready to be out on exhibit, which will likely happen at the end of July or early August.
The cubs are said to be healthy and each currently weigh about six pounds. At birth, they weighed around two pounds.
Now at six weeks old, the cubs are able to walk and are starting to climb (see more in the Akron Zoo video below).
It was back in March that zoo staff began monitoring Shanti, a 4-year-old female snow leopard, on suspicion she may be pregnant. Cameras were installed indoors at her exhibit for the impending birth. On May 14, Shanti became a first-time mother when the cubs were born at 4 a.m. and 5:51 a.m.
Akron Zoo officials say Shanti is a very attentive mother and has been caring for both cubs on her own.
Roscoe, the cubs' 9-year-old first-time father, will be on exhibit every day until Shanti and the cubs are ready to make their debut together. As in the wild, zoo officials say the father does not participate in the rearing process and will never have direct contact with the cubs.
A naming contest, much like one the Akron Zoo held for its octopus in the new Journey to the Reef exhibit, will be held in mid-July and will conclude before the cubs are on exhibit.
Photos: Akron Zoo octopus picks its name
But don't expect their debut to be filled with roars because snow leopards can't do it. Instead of roaring, the Akron Zoo says snow leopards make noises like hissing, mewing, chuffing, growling and wailing. They can also leap farther than any other cat, reaching distances of more than 40 feet in a single bound.
Snow leopards are an endangered species and only nine have been born so far this year that are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Specials Survival Plan in the United States. According to the Akron Zoo, snow leopards are an endangered species primarily due to loss of habitat, illegal poaching for their pelts and body parts and killings by local herders when a snow leopard has preyed on their livestock.
There are only believed to be as few as 4,000 left in the wild.