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

Kabul zoo officials in India seeking snow leopards

(AFP) – 1 day ago

KANPUR, India — A team of Afghan officials are in India to find an elephant and leopards for Kabul’s war-damaged zoo but transportation through Pakistan could be a problem, they said Thursday.

The Afghan capital’s zoo suffered severe damage during Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime and the authorities are now working to restock with animals donated from India.

“Afghanistan wants an elephant, a leopard and a snow leopard from India because at present it does not have these animals,” Kabul zoo director Aziz Gul Saqeb, who is leading the five-member team in India, told AFP.

“Indian authorities have agreed to help us regarding the upkeep of the elephant once it is transported to Kabul,” he said after inspecting animals in a state-run zoo in the northern Indian town of Kanpur.

Kabul zoo’s showpiece lion Marjan, who was blinded by a grenade blast in 1993, died in 2002.

India and Afghanistan have enjoyed good ties and since the US-led invasion ended the Taliban’s regime. Delhi has committed 1.3 billion dollars to Afghanistan — mainly aid for social services including health and education.

Some 4,000 Indians are building roads, sanitation projects and power lines in Afghanistan, and India is also building the new Afghan parliament.

Zoo chief Saqeb said his officials faced the prospect of a difficult journey with the animals through troubled Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan.

Copyright © 2010 AFP.

Stem cell surgery on snow leopard in Sydney, Australia, zoo

Stem cells will hopefully change a leopard’s knee, not its spots

November 20, 2010
…WHEN you are born to leap up rock faces that are almost vertical, an arthritic knee can be more of a pain than usual.

That’s why one of Sydney’s snow leopards, Kamala, has become the first big cat and first zoo animal in the world to undergo a new stem-cell therapy aimed at preventing further degeneration in her joint.

Her extremely long, thick, furry tail hung down from the operating table at the Taronga Zoo Wildlife Hospital, as the surgeon, Tony Black, collected a wad of fat from her belly.

After it had been processed in the hospital lab, the fat, which contains large numbers of stem cells, was injected back into her right hind knee joint.

A hospital veterinarian, Kimberly Vinette Herrin, said it was decided to try this new approach after traditional treatments for the five-year-old snow leopard, an endangered species, had limited success.

”Because she is such a young animal we want to try to slow down the progress of the arthritis. We want to give her the best quality of life and alleviate any pain or discomfort,” Dr Vinette Herron said. This two-hour procedure has been used on a few cats and more than 250 dogs with osteoarthritis in Australia and New Zealand. Vets and pet owners have reported improvements in mobility and pain in 80 per cent of cases.

Seven people have also had the therapy, and a double-blind clinical trial of 40 people in Sydney is about to start.

Kamala and her male sibling, Sabu, both developed a rare condition in cats called osteochondrosis when they were about six months old.

The developmental disorder, which leads to a flap of cracked cartilage, is thought to be genetic but is also related to diet and rapid growth.

Dr Black, of the Veterinary Specialist Centre in North Ryde, operated on both snow leopards when they were young to remove damaged cartilage and bone. ”The brother has done incredibly well,” he said.

Kamala, however, has developed a slight limp, which drugs have not improved.

Ben Herbert, of Macquarie University, who developed the AdiCell therapy with Graham Vesey, chief executive officer of Regeneus Animal Health, said the biggest improvement is seen at about 10 days, and had lasted for two years in treated dogs.

The injected sample contains a range of cells including mesenchymal stem cells. Their main effect appeared to be to decrease inflammation and secrete growth factors that promoted tissue healing, Associate Professor Herbert said.

Results from 26 dogs that have been treated with the therapy, which costs about $3500, have been submitted for scientific publication, but more research is needed. ”We don’t understand why some don’t respond. It doesn’t appear to be related to age or stage of disease.”

Dr Black will be involved in two new trials with dogs where improvements will be assessed using a pressure-sensitive walkway.

Estimates of snow leopards in the wild range from 2500 to 7000, with 600 to 700 in zoos. They are a target for poachers, with their luxuriant grey spotted fur often used to make a traditional Tibetan coat. They have the longest tails of any cats, which they wrap around their young in the snow, like a muff.

Activists rescue deposed Kyrgyz dictator’s starved leopards

Posted on Earth Times : Fri, 28 May 2010 10:48:55 GMT

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – Activists have rescued 23 starving wild animals, including bears and wolves, from a private menagerie belonging to deposed Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, but said Friday they arrived too late to save a couple of snow leopards.

The animals, neglected since Bakiyev’s ouster early last month, were trucked from Bakiyev’s former luxury compound at Jalal-Abad in the south of Kyrgyzstan to a nature-protection site at Karakol, said Leif Miller, head of German nature group NABU.

Among the survivors was one snow leopard, but two were already dead when the NABU staff arrived. There are estimated to be only 350 snow leopards left in the wild in Kyrgyzstan. Birds of prey in the collection included two black kites and an eagle.

“The animals don’t seem to have been fed since he was overthrown,” said Miller from NABU’s office in Berlin. Bakiyev has fled to Belarus.

Bakiyev was not the only regional leader with a menagerie: Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov reportedly owns lions and rare Siberian tigers.,activists-rescue-deposed-kyrgyz-dictators-starved-leopards.html

George Schaller helped with snow leopard cub in 1984

Birdman Of Pokhara
  Nepal has been my second home for more than 30 years. During that time I have written several books set in Kathmandu and authored dozens of articles about conservation and development projects – from the first micro-hydel project in Namche (1983) to the post-war plight of Chitwan’s tigers.During the past month, I have been following closely what seems to be a campaign against Scott Mason, who for nine years has been operating a parahawking business in Pokhara. The writers in Republica were outraged that Mason is keeping endangered Himalayan vultures— even alleging animal abuse. A public outcry has followed these accusations. Quite suddenly, laws that prohibit parahawking – a sport that Mason originated – are allegedly coming to light.

At the risk of taking up a bit more space than is usual, let me share with you a story. In 1984, in Lhasa, Tibet, I encountered two nomads with a cardboard box. Inside the box was a baby snow leopard, which they had captured after shooting its mother (who, during a particularly hard winter, had attacked their livestock). It was the intention of the nomads to sell the snow leopard to the highest bidder: Either a pharmacist, who could sell its bones as a Chinese aphrodisiac, or to a carpet merchant, who could sell the animal’s skin.

I bought the leopard from the nomads myself – an act of compassion that instantly made me a criminal, in possession of an endangered species. Unfortunately, I was in no position to rehabilitate this animal, much less release its progeny (if breeding were possible) into the wild. If I had been, I would have done so without hesitation.

By the greatest good luck, I was introduced to another traveler visiting Lhasa at that time: The renowned zoologist George Schaller, immortalized in Peter Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard.” Schaller assured me of one thing: An injured predator – like a snow leopard or a Himalayan raptor – can almost never be returned to the wild. Unable to hunt, they will slowly starve and die. But even Dr Schaller had few alternatives. He acted as an intermediary, and made it possible for me to hand the animal over to the Chinese authorities without penalty. The snow leopard died some years later, in captivity in the Beijing zoo.

Scott Mason has spent nine years rescuing and caring for crippled, poisoned or displaced Himalayan raptors (for an indirect commentary on habitat destruction, please see your own article of Feb 18, ”35 New Hotels in Pokhara”). Locals often bring Mason injured birds, which he nurses back to health. To the best of his knowledge, there are no effective alternatives in Nepal for raptor rehabilitation.

Over the past nine years, Mason has worked with about 25 birds. Whenever possible, they are returned to the wild. Some of the rescued chicks have been “imprinted” in the care of human hosts. They cannot hunt on their own, are trained to fly with paragliding pilots and receive rewards of meat. Like the falcons of Mongolia they remain noble creatures, navigating the thermals above some of Nepal’s most beautiful mountains.

But not all Mason’s birds are suitable for training—and some arrive with broken wings or torn tendons, too damaged to ever fly again. These birds are cared for, fed, and exercised by Mason daily.

It is true that Mason is a paragliding pilot, and that he makes a living from his parahawking business. This, in turn, helps support his conservation efforts. But anyone who has seen Mason caring for his raptors –often for 12 hours a day – appreciates his incredible love for, and commitment to, these birds. Like the Jane Goddall or the late Dian Fossey, his vocation transcends business.

I support all laws which prohibit the keeping or selling, for exploitive purposes, of any endangered species. But Mason is not exploiting Himalayan vultures; he is saving them from extinction. Mason has continually supported international efforts to bring international attention and aid to the plight of these birds – including a project, with Bird Conservation Nepal, to launch a “Vulture Restaurant” in Pokhara which will help fund further raptor rescue efforts.

Without these efforts, and the facilities that Mason has developed, rescued vultures would likely share the fate of my Tibetan snow leopard.

The most sensible course from here would be to accord Mason the well-deserved status of an exemplary conservator and teacher, fully empowering him to work with local authorities and students to publicize the plight of the raptors. He deserves not censure, but the full support of Nepal’s people and government.

I love Nepal, and admire many things about the Nepali people. But I find the tendency to target successful foreigners, and distort their efforts at building a strong infrastructure, enormously troubling. There are many grievous problems that we—Nepalis and visitors together—must address in Nepal. Attacking an internationally respected pilot and conservationist is perhaps not the best use of our energies.

This news item is printed from – a sister publication of Republica national daily.
© Nepal Republic Media Pvt. Ltd. Kathmandu Nepal.

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.

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. 

Chinese expert: No decision to release snow leopard into wild

2009-05-13 13:20:46 GMT2009-05-13 21:20:46 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English LANZHOU, May 13 (Xinhua) — No decision has been made if a snow leopard captured in a northwestern Chinese village will be released into the wild, an animal researcher said Wednesday. The big cat wandered into a village at the foot of Qilian Mountain in Zhangye City, Gansu Province, on April 29, prompting fearful villagers to seek police help. Police and animal protectionists shot the wild animal with a tranquilizer gun and put it in an iron cage amid worries that it might hurt people. The animal was then handed over to the Gansu Endangered Animal Research Center. The snow leopard, female, is 70 to 80 centimeters long and weights around 40 km, said Li Yan, a researcher at the center, adding that the animal is in good condition. Li said the researchers were baffled by why the elusive and solitary animal came down from the high mountains. He ruled out three possibilities as reasons: human damage to its habitat, food shortage and waning ability to hunt due to illness or age. Snow leopards are usually nocturnal and live in mountains more than 3,000 meters above the sea level. They are white, yellowish, or smoky-gray with dark-gray to black spots and rosettes, the Snow Leopard Trust said on its Web site. The animal is listed as “endangered” in China, the same level given the giant panda. An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 wild snow leopards roam the mountains of central Asia, in addition to 600 to700 more in zoos around the world, according to the agency.