Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Taking the next step

Posted by : Carrie McMorris Animal Care Specialist

Yesterday was another big day for our little miss snow leopard.  She completed her 30 day quarantine period and has her clean bill of heath.  So, yesterday morning myself and another keeper got the snow leopard to go inside a crate that was already placed inside her enclosure. We shut the crate door using a pole through the wire, and while the other keeper held the door closed with the pole, I went in and latched up the crate.  With her safely contained, we were able to pick up and move the snow leopard down to the den of her new enclosure.  Little miss snow leopard will live in the Paseo Panthera exhibit where we housed our late mountain lion and snow leopard. 

Right now little miss snow leopard will stay in the off exhibit holding area until the last of the main exhibit area renovations are complete.  This allows her time to adjust to all the new sights, sounds and smells of her new home.  While she is adjusting, staff is sprucing up the area inside and around the exhibit.  Plants are being planted, the meshing is being reinforced, and I am building her a play structure. Hopefully the weather won't set us back too far. I am hopeful that before the end of the month, we at the Micke Grove Zoo can welcome all of you to come see our beautiful little snow leopard out enjoying the grass and the sunshine (and hopefully the structure I will construct).

The pictures below are just a couple quick snaps I got while she was in her den space.  The off exhibit holding area is a large space that connects to the den and a dirt area. She spent the night just in the den area last night and will be introduced to the rest of the space by tomorrow.  Just like when you bring a new animal to your home, you introduce everything one area at a time so it's not overwhelming and scary. Slow baby steps will make her transition easier.

Already comfortable in her space, she is napping in the glow of the sun in her new den.
The crate she was transported is in the foreground.

At the end of the day I slid a pan of yummy raw meat under her door as she calmly watched and waited for me to leave so she could enjoy her first dinner in her new home!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

First vet check and a little update!

Posted by: Carrie McMorris ~Animal Care Specialist


We have been busy bees around here at the zoo. With all the wonderful changes and new animals, I have been working hard to get everything ready for our two new cats. As most of you know we just released our Bobcat into his new enclosure. He lives between the Golden Eagle and a group of Golden Lion Tamarins.  He is settling in well and is a joy to watch.  But now my focus turns to our little 8 month old Snow Leopard.

Her adventure was wonderfully laid out by the zoo's curator Avanti in the previous blog, and now she is in her third week of quarantine.  Last week on January 15th she had her first exam and all went very smoothly and she is healthy.  While she was under anesthesia, I was able to make several paw prints.  Each paw print is unique and original and will be available for sale in the Zootique (gift shop) when the snow leopard is released into her enclosure. These prints are a limited addition as I can only get them made once a year!!!!

Top- Snow Leopard on the scale to get her weight - 16kg (~35lbs)
Bottom-Zoo vets examining the Snow Leopard.

Her foot!!! Because we are obsessed with feet!

This is me getting the paw print while the vets are doing their exam.

If you have been to the zoo lately, you know we are doing some renovations to Paseo Panthera, the exhibit the snow leopard will live in.  We here at the zoo want to ensure she will be a happy little kitty in her new home as well as a safe environment for her to be in.  All this work needs to be done prior to the snow leopard being released into the exhibit. So far everything is on schedule but a release date for the snow leopard has not been set.  Since she is a little shy, she is not as willing to shift and move around the keeper staff like the bobcat did.  We as keepers will be working based on her schedule and her comfort level.  When the snow leopard is ready to leave quarantine, she will be moved to her behind the scenes holding area just off the exhibit. She will spend some time there getting used to the new smells, sights and sounds.  This is also where the keeper staff will start teaching her the new daily routine.  When she is ready, she will be released into her new exhibit!!!  I am looking forward to that day because this exhibit is very different and much larger than the one she had back at the Albuquerque Zoo.  This little girl is a spit fire and absolutely beautiful!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Big Cat move: A snow leopard cub's journey to California

By Avanti Mallapur, Zoo Curator

Micke Grove Zoo (MGZ) received a recommendation from the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) to acquire a snow leopard cub from Albuquerque BioPark (ABQ) located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were delighted to receive this opportunity. Our handsome male snow leopard 'Ling' was euthanized last year after being diagnosed with a malignant oral tumor. Our facility has successfully bred snow leopards in the past producing seven lively little cubs. We were keen on continuing to support snow leopard conservation. Providing the cub with a new home would give us this very opportunity to do so.

I immediately sent the SSP Coordinator an email that included all the pertinent information for our zoo, our standard operating procedures and information on the animal health support our animals receive. He also received information on the Paseo Panthera building where the cub is going to be housed. 

The SSP Coordinator asked me to contact the curator at ABQ to arrange the animal transaction. I sent an email to the curator and requested her to send us a few photographs of the cub. 

The cub was born on May 3, 2013. She was housed with her mother 'Kachina' and twin sister at ABQ. 

Carrie McMorris and I decided to visit ABQ to move the cat to our facility. Carrie McMorris, our animal care specialist who leads zoo management of wild cats at MGZ, and I planned the trip carefully.  

The photograph above is of the cub taken in August 2013 when she was three months old  [Photo credit: Tony York, Albuquerque BioPark, NM, USA]

Six-month old cub taken in October 2013
[Photo credit: Tony York, Albuquerque BioPark, NM, USA]

Carrie and I planned to fly to Albuquerque on December 30, 2013 and to rent a truck to move the cub to California. We reached Albuquerque at 2:30 PM and after renting the truck, we drove to the ABQ. The curator took us on a tour around the zoo and we had an opportunity to see their animal exhibits and their zoo design. We saw an assortment of fascinating captive wildlife. We also had the opportunity of seeing a big fur ball of ears and paws in an enclosure. This fur ball happened to be the cub with her sister sitting behind the rockwork. The adjacent enclosure housed their parents. 

The twins huddled together behind the rockwork at Albuquerque BioPark, December 2013

The cub's mother 'Kachina' is very beautiful and a successful breeder having given birth to seven litters. I was amazed to see her father 'Azeo' who is very well built and has a beautiful long and thick tail. I felt heart-warmed. This cat has good genes!

The curator of ABQ had asked Carrie and me to visit the back gate of their facility at 8 AM in the morning on December 31, 2013. The snow leopard cub was crated by the ABQ staff. We helped them load the crate onto the truck.

We borrowed the animal crate from ABQ to move the cub to MGZ. The crate was made of wood and had an inner layer of metal plate. It had guillotine doors on two ends. One of the doors had a small door that we could use to check on the cub. The crate also had a water bowl attached to it. The crate was strapped on to the truck to make it secure to prevent it from moving during the drive.

[Photograph above] Carrie strapping the crate to make sure that it is secure

We packed some of the cub's diet in an ice cooler. The ABQ staff used a Feliway plugin which would calm the cub during the drive.

We left ABQ at 9 AM on December 31, 2013 and drove towards interstate highway 40. We had decided to take I40 west all the way to California. We were concerned about the weather in Gallop, NM and Flagstaff, AZ since these cities are located at higher elevations and could have snow and ice on the roads. 

[Photograph on the left] The cub's diet packed in an ice cooler

Fortunately, the weather was sunny and bright and the journey was very smooth. We reached the California border before nightfall. When we reached Bakersfield, CA, we turned onto interstate highway 99 and headed north to the Central Valley.

Directional map - Our drive from Albuquerque, NM to Lodi, CA 
We drove for 17 hours to reach our destination. Carrie's brilliant idea of driving three to four hours and swapping worked really well. We reached MGZ at 1:30 AM on January 1, 2014. 

Yes, we drove on New Year's Eve and I enjoyed every minute of it. We were bringing home a new member of our happy family.

At MGZ, we met James Rexroth, Interim Zoo Manager who helped us unload the crate from the truck. We moved the crate into our animal quarantine area. The next day, the cub was fed with her diet that we had brought with us from ABQ. She must have been very hungry because she ate every morsel.