Darjeeling to get new off display breeding center endangered Himalayan animals

Amitava Banerjee, Hindustan Times
Darjeeling, June 23, 2011

First Published: 20:11 IST(23/6/2011)
Last Updated: 20:13 IST(23/6/2011)

The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (PNHZP) Darjeeling, is all set to start an off display breeding centre for rare and endangered Himalayan species, specially snow leopards and red pandas at Tobgay Danra on the way to Peshok around 20 km from Darjeeling town. The forest department has allott ed 5 hectares of forest land for this.

The PNHZP was founded in 1958 and specializes in the captive breeding of endangered Himalayan species including Snow Leopard, Red Panda, Tibetan Wolf; Blue Sheep, Himalayan Tahr and Satyr tragopan (crimson horned pheasant.) At present all these animals are being bred in enclosures at the PNHZP premises in Darjeeling.

The PNHZP is the coordinating zoo for the red panda breeding programme (Project Red Panda) in India. Under this programme red pandas are bred in captivity at PNHZP, Gangtok zoo in Sikkim and Itanagar zoo. The first breeding success under the Project Red Panda came in 1994.

Since then there have been around 40 Zoo bred Pandas at the PNHZP, many of the animals sent to other high altitude zoos. At present the Red Panda population stands at 9 males, 5 females including a male cub and a female cub.

PNHZP is the pioneer zoo to have initiated the captive breeding programme of snow leopards. In 1986 this programme had been started with 4 snow leopards. At present there are 4 males, 3 females. “There have been 52 births in captivity. Most of the animals have been given out to other high altitude zoos” stated AK Jha, director, PNHZP.

“Our main aim is to release the zoo bred animals in the wild. We had got immense success on 14th November 2003 when 2 zoo bred radio collared red pandas were released in the wild in the forests of Garibans. However this has not been tried out for the snow leopards” remarked Jha.

“We will be sending a proposal to the Central Zoo Authority for the off display breeding centre at Topgey Danra which is located in the Sinchal Wildlife Sanctuary. The survey is already complete. The state government will be providing the necessary funds for building the infrastructure” stated Jha.

With this off display breeding centre the animals will not be disturbed as visitors will not be allowed. They will have ample space also. Each enclosure will be of an area of half hectare each. Initially a pair of red pandas and a pair of snow leopards will be kept.

“We will try to hone the hunting skills of the zoo bred snow leopards. Once the animals are equipped for the wild we can try to reintroduce the zoo bred snow leopards in the wild” stated the Director.

Recently Hiten Burman, forest minister, government of West Bengal had visited the PNHZP along with Bratya Basu, higher education minister. “We will further upgrade the infrastructure of the Zoo” stated Hiten Burman.

While Burman christened the Red Panda cubs Ram and Janaki and a blue sheep cub “Nilu,” Basu named a blue sheep cub “Bonny”.


Book review: ‘The Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue’ by Juliana Hatkoff

Published: Sunday, March 27, 2011, 6:10 PM

By Mary Penn | Bay County Library System The Bay City Times

“Leo the Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue” by Juliana Hatkoff

Scholastic, 2010, 40 pages, $17.99, Ages 4 to 10

What would you do if you found a helpless snow leopard cub?

A goatherd in Pakistan found such a cub. After observing the cub to see if he really was alone, the goatherd took the tiny creature home. The cub, named Leo, soon grew too big to be kept inside. A safe, suitable home needed to be found for this growing leopard — and fast!

This book tells the exciting story of how Leo journeyed from Pakistan to live in one of America’s most famous zoos. The author also shares fascinating facts about snow leopards and why Leo’s story is so important to the future of his species.

— Reviewed by Rachel Bedell, Auburn Area Branch Library

Lonely existence for Himachal snow leopard

2010-03-16 11:40:00

He is rugged, handsome and the undisputed monarch of his vast territory, but terribly lonely. Subhash, a nine-year-old snow leopard at a Himachal Pradesh nature park, is waiting for a suitable mate and authorities are worried the forced celibacy could adversely affect his behaviour.

Subhash has been living a life of loneliness at the Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri, 15 km from here, since his maturity. He was bred from a pair of snow leopards brought from Finland.

‘Efforts have been on to find a suitable partner for Subhash for quite some time. We are now pinning hopes on the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Zoo in Darjeeling to arrange a new bloodline female snow leopard for him,’ Chief Conservator (Faunal Diversity and Protected Areas) Sanjeeva Pandey told IANS.

‘Darjeeling is the only other zoo in the country besides Kufri which has a snow leopard. We have approached them and they assured us that they would soon be in a position to provide a female snow leopard,’ he said.

Subhash and his sibling Sapna were brought to Kufri from Darjeeling under an exchange programme in 2004. The breeding programme couldn’t be initiated as they belonged to the same bloodline. Sapna died due to disease in 2007.

This was the second mysterious death of a snow leopard in the nature park. Earlier, a female snow leopard had died. The female leopard had been discovered as a cub by the shepherds in the Spiti Valley in Lahaul and Spiti district and was reared in the park.

‘We are hoping that we might be lucky again to encounter an abandoned female cub or a wounded snow leopard from the higher reaches of Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Kullu districts, where there is a good population of snow leopards,’ Pandey said.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Tandon said: ‘We are scouting for a partner even from abroad. Subhash was bred from a pair brought from Finland. We are still trying to contact zoos in Finland, Holland and Bronx in the US to get a female snow leopard so that the breeding programme of the highly endangered species could be initiated.’

According to wildlife experts, the captive animals need to be kept in pairs; otherwise their natural behaviour could be affected.

‘Keeping animals in isolation for a longer duration often results in emotional stress and other behavioural problems,’ said Sandeep Rattan, a veterinary surgeon with the wildlife wing.

Even rule 37 of the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992, clearly mentions that no animal will be kept without a mate for a period exceeding one year unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so or if the animal has already passed its prime and is of no use for breeding purposes.

Photo Caption: A male snow leopard at the Himalayan Nature Park in Kufri, 15 km from Shimla. Photo: Kumar Lalit (Photo IANS)

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)


Species Recovery Program for Snow Leopards etc. in Jammu & Kashmir

  Jammu , Feb 28, 2010 Jammu and Kashmir government has launched Species Recovery Programme (SRP) for the endangered snow leopards, Markhor and Kashmiri stags to prevent their extinction.

“Jammu and Kashmir Government’s forest department has launched centre aided SRP for three species- snow leopard, Hangul (Kashmiri stags) and Markhor- for reversing the extinction process of such species in J-K,” Forest Minister Mian Altaf Said here.

“In year 2009, the estimated population of Hungul has been recorded at 175 only,” the Minister said.

He said that a breeding centre for Hangul is being established at Shikargah Tral in Kashmir.

“The project, being funded by Central Zoo Authority of India, Dehradun, has been approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India,” Altaf said.

It is being funded under the species recovery Programme of centrally sponsored scheme ‘Integrated Development of Wild life Habitats’, he said.

Five National Parks and 13 Wildlife sanctuaries are presently being controlled and looked after by the State Wildlife Protection Department, he said.

Three species Hangul, Markhor and snow Leopard are specifically covered under Species Recovery Programme (SRP), he said. 

Filed At: Feb 28, 2010 17:24 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 28, 2010 17:24 IST


LE JOURNAL DE LA CONSERVATION: new French online journal features article on snow leopards

A new magazine called “LE JOURNAL DE LA CONSERVATION” has just been published online. “Le Journal de la Conservation” is the first French language magazine informing the general public about the commitments of public and private French zoological parks towards saving wild animal species in their natural habitat (in-situ conservation).

It also details the commitments of these parks towards international ex-situ conservation programmes and the research that entails and which allows us to broaden our knowledge of wild animals. In brief it gives news about zoological parks.

In this first issue, which can be downloaded by clicking on the link below, you will also find a concise article about the Snow Leopard and discoveries made about this very discrete animal, written by Grégory Breton, zoological director of the Parc des Félins.
PS: For easier reading, we suggest you save the document on your hard disk and modify the display by selecting the options “Facing” in the menu ‘View>Page Layout’ of Acrobat Reader.http://www.parc-des-felins.com/telechargement/journal_de_la_conservation_0.pdf

DNA could offer captive-breeding alternative to snow leopard studbook

Oct 16, 2009 11:03 AM in Scientific AmericanBy John PlattCaptive breeding of endangered snow leopards (Panthera uncia) has relied since 1976 on an international studbook that matches animals at zoos around the world for purposes of keeping the big cats from becoming too inbred.

Breeding via studbook, however, is a slow process that does not offer many benefits to an endangered species with small populations, such as the snow leopard. Now a team from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., hopes to come up with an alternative breeding program that will rely on DNA instead of family trees.

Principal investigators Margaret Barr, Kristopher Irizarry and Janis Joslin have received a $100,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop a strategy for using genetic analysis to maximize the breeding of snow leopards to enhance species diversity and robustness.

The existing snow leopard studbook is “slow and cumbersome,” Barr says. “It relies on demographic information and traditional observational genetics in deciding on which animals might be assets to the breeding program. The individual animals are bred and observed to see if the offspring survive, thrive and successfully reproduce free of diseases of concern. Zoos need a faster way to determine that they are correctly identifying the best individual animals for breeding for the long-term success of the program.”

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, worldwide populations for the cats are estimated at 4,000 to 6,000 animals. About 550 live in captivity in zoos. The species’s limited genetic range has weakened the animals’ immune systems and left them susceptible to a variety of diseases, such as pneumonia, enteritis from salmonella, and two different papillomaviruses, “which cause them to develop squamous cell carcinomas on their skin and in their mouths,” Barr says. The big cats also have problems similar to those in overbred domesticated animals, like hip dysplasia and colobomas (eye lesions).

As part of its research, the team will collect and store DNA samples from up to 100 snow leopards from North American captive populations. “Some of these samples will be used to generate a sequence of the snow leopard genome and to begin to identify genes that might play a role in the snow leopard’s increased susceptibility to some diseases,” Barr says.

Before that, the team plans to organize a workshop for several groups interested in snow leopard conservation, including “zoo curators and veterinarians involved in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums‘ Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP); key members of some SSPs for other endangered animals; geneticists and experts in genomics; immunologists; and reproductive physiologists,” Barr says. The team will use the workshop to come up with a “comprehensive strategy for applying functional genomics to animal conservation issues.”

The team hopes its results will also be applicable to other endangered species. “There are many other species of endangered cats such as the cheetah, Pallas’s cats, sand cats and Asiatic lions that have medical problems that could be evaluated using this same process, and breeding programs could be managed using the approach developed in this research,” Barr says.

The team’s yearlong project begins this month. http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=dna-could-offer-captive-breeding-al-2009-10-16 

New Snow Leopard Sculpture At Woodland Park Zoo Honors Helen Freeman

By Gigi Allianic

Seattle, WA – The champion of snow leopards, Helen Freeman, was remembered over the weekend at a private ceremony at Woodland Park Zoo that paid tribute to her tireless efforts toward protecting snow leopards and establishing the Snow Leopard Trust. Family, friends, the Snow Leopard Trust, and the zoo unveiled an ensemble of bronze sculptures that illustrates the lifetime passion of Freeman who passed away in 2007.

The commemoration to Freeman is located near the zoo’s snow leopard exhibit. Members of the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT), Freeman’s family, and local artist Gretchen Daiber collaborated with the zoo to create the sculptural vignette: a clipboard detailing Freeman’s observations of snow leopards, a leaping snow leopard and a small plaque.

“The commemorative sculptures aptly capture the passion, spirit and life’s work of Helen,” noted Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust, Brad Rutherford. “The Snow Leopard Trust is keeping Helen’s dream alive to save the cats she loved so much. We hope this new tribute will inspire zoo visitors to reflect on the legacy of snow leopard conservation she left behind and on her vision that will continue into the future.”

Freeman’s interest in snow leopards began in the early 1970s as a volunteer docent at Woodland Park Zoo where she began studying the zoo’s pair of snow leopards from Russia. She discovered a new passion for the endangered cats, which led her back to school for a second degree in animal behavior at University of Washington. The countless hours she spent studying the elusive cats grew into a multinational research effort. In the early 1980s, she became the zoo’s Curator of Education and, in 1981, she founded the Snow Leopard Trust.

Under Freeman’s guidance the Trust pioneered new approaches to snow leopard conservation and its habitat in Asia, placing local peoples at the center of the movement. Freeman ultimately became one of the world’s foremost experts on the behavior of snow leopards in captivity and a key figure in international snow leopard conservation. In 2008, the SLT continued Freeman’s legacy by launching the first ever long-term study of wild snow leopards, greatly advancing knowledge of and conservation efforts for the beautiful felines.

“Helen made a special connection with the snow leopards at the zoo and came to understand how these animals are conservation ambassadors for their cousins in the wild. Her drive to protect the species led her to build an organization that works with real communities to save these animals in their natural habitat. We miss Helen, but are proud to be part of helping her work and dream continue to succeed,” said Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen.

Woodland Park Zoo currently has a 14-year-old female snow leopard, which was joined this year by new arrivals, a 2-year-old male and a 3-year-old female, named Helen in honor of Helen Freeman.

The Snow Leopard Trust is now the oldest and largest organization whose sole purpose is to protect endangered snow leopards in their native Central Asian habitat, with programs and staff in key range countries, a global network of researchers and partnerships with local communities in the cats’ habitat. “The strength and independence of the Trust today is part of Helen’s legacy and stands as her greatest achievement in the snow leopard sphere of her life,” added Rutherford.

The Snow Leopard Trust is one of Woodland Park Zoo’s Partners for Wildlife conservation initiatives, an expansion of the zoo’s efforts and resources in proven field conservation projects. The zoo currently partners with 38 field conservation projects in 50 countries around the world. For more information about Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation efforts, visit www.zoo.org.

Artist Gretchen Daiber of Leavenworth, Wash. grew up in the Northwest. A long-time friend of Freeman’s, Daiber works in all mediums while concentrating on stone and bronze sculpture. She has numerous pieces in the growing outdoor collection of Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat in Leavenworth as well as works which are part of the permanent collections of the cities of Puyallup, Wash., Wenatchee, Wash. and Seattle.

Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), award-winning Woodland Park Zoo is famed for pioneering naturalistic exhibits and setting international standards for zoos all over the world. The 21st century zoo is helping to save animals and their habitats in Washington state and around the world. By inspiring people to care and act, Woodland Park Zoo is making a difference in our planet’s future.

To view a photo of the sculpture, please click on the link below:


© 2008 Zoo and Aquarium Visitor. All rights reserved.

Santa Barbara Zoo’s Snow Leopard Festival a Success

Source: The Santa Barbara Independent

December 6, 2007- Snow in Santa Barbara? Not likely. Today, however, thousands of people flocked to the Santa Barbara Zoo to take a look at animals and children frolicking in more that 40 tons of snow. It was all part of the Snow Leopard Festival, held to raise money for the critically endangered Snow Leopards. Hailing from the cold climes of the Russo-Chinese border, the two Amur Leopards, who also reside in the zoo, benefited from the snow as well.

Brought in by semi truck, the snow arrived before 5 a.m., and was met by zoo keepers and staffers who helped unload the delivery into animal cages and at the hilltop park at the zoo’s center. Staff even constructed two small sledding hills in the park, which, by 10 a.m., were packed with enthusiastic kids. Animals could be seen romping in the snow as well — albeit within their enclosures — with snow leopards rolling playfully in it, and Asian Elephants forming and tossing snowballs with their dexterous trunks.

The snow attracted more than the usual number of zoo visitors for a Sunday afternoon, with the official count being upwards of 4,000 guests. Dean Noble, the Zoo’s director of marketing, said that the money raised by admission fees will benefit the Snow Leopard Trust, which has worked since 1981 to help protect snow leopards and their central Asian habitat. Heavily involved in animal conversation efforts, the Santa Barbara Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which ensures that species — particularly endangered ones — get the space and habitat they need in captivity. “Zoos used to be for entertainment. Now they’ve become modern arcs,” said Noble.

Click to enlarge photo

Photo: Paul Wellman

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