Amitava Banerjee , HT, 28 Aug 2016, DARJEELING: A two-year-old male snow leopard is being brought to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (Pnhzp), Darjeeling, from the Mulhouse Zoo in France to boost the ongoing captive breeding programme of this endangered species.
The snow leopard is scheduled to arrive in Kolkata on August 31 from where it will be transported by an air-conditioned vehicle to the Darjeeling zoo.
On June 25, another two-yearold male snow leopard arrived in Darjeeling zoo from Dudley Zoo in England. “The snow leopard will be arriving on the morning of August 31 from France via Dubai. It will be brought to Darjeeling in an air conditioned vehicle. Vets will be accompanying the snow leopard,” said Shiromanu Shyangden, estate offficer, Pnhzp.
In Darjeeling, the snow leopard will first be kept in quarantine for a month in a secluded enclosure. The snow leopard will be introduced at the nondisplay breeding centre located at Tobgay Danra, 14 km from Darjeeling town. “Two-yearold Makalu, the snow leopard who had been brought from the Dudley zoo is doing fine. He is in the best of health and spirits,” added Shyangden.
Pnhzp is the pioneer zoo in India to have initiated the captive breeding programme of snow leopards. In 1986, this programme had been initiated with four snow leopards. The programme has a high success rate and about 40 cubs have been born in captivity.
In the past, snow leopards from US, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany have made Pnhzp their home. At present, there are 7 females and 2 male snow leopards.
The breeding programme ran into trouble when the only male snow leopard of the Pnzhp was declared unfit for breeding owing to old age. “We then got two new male snow leopards from England and France. This will introduce fresh genetic lines and prevent inbreeding which causes genetic complications,” said Piar Chand, director, Pnhzp.
The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a highly endangered species. In summer, it usually lives above the tree line on mountainous meadows and in rocky regions at an altitude of 2,700 m to 6,000 m. In winter, it comes down into the forests to an altitude of around 2,000m.