A litter of threatened snow leopard cubs has been born at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.
Just seven-weeks old, the cubs are still being nursed by mum Animesh and have started to leave their cubbing box and explore outside.
Staff at the wildlife conservation charity are delighted, though the coming weeks are critical for the cubs’ survival.
Una Richardson, the park’s head of carnivores, said, “We are thrilled, though we remain cautious as this is still a very delicate stage in their development.
“Animesh has had three cubs and they will be health checked by our keepers and vets around three weeks from now.
“Snow leopards are relatively solitary animals so dad Chan is living separately from Animesh and the cubs, who will remain with their mum until they are around two years old.”
Chan arrived at the park, near Kingussie, from Zoo Krefeld in 2015, with Animesh following later the same year from Marwell Zoo.
Una added, “With a wild population estimated to be as low as 2,700, snow leopards are classed as vulnerable, with threats including declining prey populations, protection of livestock and an increasing demand for their bones in traditional Asian medicine.
“The good news is they are now protected throughout much of their range and the international trade in the species has been banned.
“Animesh and Chan are part of the European endangered species breeding programme, with every birth being a potential lifeline and increasing the possibility of future generations being reintroduced into the wild.”