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Some of the world’s most fascinating animals can be seen at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. A few short weeks ago, my Grade 5 class had a week-long field trip to the Zoo where we learned about different kinds of animals and had the opportunity to go inside restricted areas. The animal I most enjoyed learning about at the Zoo was the Snow Leopard.
The snow leopard looks like a big, grey cat with dots or lines and has a small head. They can weigh up to 75kg and can stand up to approximately 60cm. Its body length ranges from 76 to 127 cm. It has smoky grey fur with either black dots or short lines around its body.
Snow leopards aren’t sociable and typically live solitary lives. When they do encounter another leopard, they communicate using sounds that can be compared to moans or grunts. Snow leopards are most active at dawn and dusk, depending on human presence. If there are very few people they may become active throughout the day, or if there are people living near its home range, they may become temporarily nocturnal.
Snow leopards can be found in alpine meadows and sub alpine areas, up to the snow line. They’re home range is located in the mountain ranges of Central Asia. These mountains are some of the tallest in the world with heights of up to 6,000 meters! Snow leopards can easily climb rocky mountain sides.
The snow leopards’ adaptations are very unique, as most animals’ adaptations are. Their fur insulates them from the cold climate. Its long tail helps it keep its balance, and also allows them to cover up their eyes and noses while sleeping in the cold. Their extra large paws keep them from sinking in the snow, which is particularly important when hunting. It’s like they have built-in snowshoes! Their fur pattern blends into the rocky landscape which helps them to hide from their human predators.
A snow leopard is small and helpless when its born. At 2 months it is ready to eat solid food. At 3 months it begins to learn behaviours like hunting. In 18-22 months it becomes independent of their family. In 2-4 years it is ready to have its own cubs. During January to March, a male and female travel together and start to become a couple. When the female is pregnant, it becomes independent again. It can be pregnant for up to 110 days. After that, 2-3 cubs are born. The mother provides food and shelter for the cubs. A snow leopard can live up to 15-18 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.
Snow leopards are predators, meaning that they eat other animals. Their three main prey species are the blue sheep, the argali sheep, and the ibex (a wild goat.) Snow leopards eat slowly, usually taking up to 4 days to fully consume an animal. The snow leopard’s diet varies depending on their location and therefore, they are also known to eat mountain goats and sheep, musk, deer, marmots, pheasants and mice.
Unfortunately, the snow leopard’s survival status is currently endangered because of humans hunting them for their valuable pelts and the use of their bones in certain types of medicines. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has produced over 70 snow leopard cubs at its facilities, and have been sent to over 30 zoos across 9 countries.
Here are some interesting facts you probably didn’t know:
A female snow leopard is 30% smaller than a male.
The scientific name for a snow leopard is “Panthera uncia.”
A snow leopard’s tail is over 75% of its total body length.
Hunting snow leopards is illegal around the world.
It is estimated that about 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards are currently alive.
One of the snow leopards at the Edmonton Valley Zoo is blind.
In conclusion, if you would like to learn more facts about wild animals, I recommend you pay a visit to the Edmonton Valley Zoo. I had a great time there and learned lots of interesting information about these animals.