Snow Leopard Cubs

File photo shows snow leopard cubs at the Cape May County Zoo July 18. The cubs were introduced as part of an event to present them to the public.  

COURT HOUSE - One of the female snow leopard cubs born at the Cape May County Zoo this year, and introduced to the world in July, died Oct. 2.

According to a release, Associate Veterinarian Dr. Alexander Ernst from the Cape May County Zoo reported the female cub named Zara became “acutely ill Sept. 29 and despite medical intervention and treatments, her health continued to deteriorate through the weekend.”

Zara traveled to Northstar Veterinary Hospital on Monday morning, Oct. 2 for a neurological checkup and an MRI was performed. Despite these efforts, Zara passed away.

“Zara’s clinical signs, and MRI suggested she had a severe infectious encephalitis. Results are still pending that will identify the exact infectious agent. She was only four months old and still had an immature immune system which is why the infection acted so quickly and aggressively in her case,” stated Ernst.

Ernst explained that he and his staff are closely monitoring Zara’s sister Ahana and mother Tysa for any signs of illness.

Two female snow leopard cubs were introduced at the Cape May County Zoo as part of an event, including a naming contest organized by zoo officials, to present them to the public. Zara, meaning princess, and Ahana, meaning first rays of light, quickly captured the attention of the public and were considered stars in the eyes of the zoo’s visitors.                    

Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, who oversees the zoo, thanked Ernst and his animal care staff for their hard work and dedication.

“Zara was well cared for by Dr. Ernst and his staff. They helped to bring the cubs into this world and nurtured the growth of Zara until the time of her passing,” stated Hayes.

“It is the work of the animal care staff to nurture, grow and care for the residents of our world class zoo and for that I am grateful,” she added.

Zara and her sister Ahana were born to their mother Tysa May 19 at the Cape May County Zoo as part of a national program to help save endangered species. 

The Species Survival Plan (SSP) was established by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to ensure the survival of specific species. This program includes many species, generally threatened or endangered, which are considered in jeopardy of extinction.

With the cooperation of member institutions and supporting agencies, the AZA manages research information to establish organized breeding programs and develop conservation strategies for captive and wild populations. This program also focuses on re-introduction of captive-bred wildlife to wild habitats when necessary and appropriate.