NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Bronx Zoo is showing off its newest resident: a snow leopard born there in the spring.
The 17-pound cub is the first son of Leo, an orphaned snow leopard that was brought to the zoo after his mother and siblings were killed in Pakistan in 2005.
As CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported Tuesday, Leo was paired with Maya, a proven breeder, and the cub was born on April 9. The baby, who is not yet named, went on view last week.
“The rescue of Leo as a cub, conducted by two nations, the continued global interest in him, and now the story of his first offspring shows the power of the connections between humans and nature,” stated Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and WCS Executive Vice President of Zoos and Aquarium.
“The cub is a great, positive symbol that people from two really very different countries can unite behind,” Bronx Zoo Curator Pat Thomas told 1010 WINS.
By seeing a snow leopard up close, the public officially gets to meet one of the world’s most endangered big cats. It is estimated that only about 7,500 remain in the wild — mostly in foreign mountains.
With a barrier only of non-reflective glass almost invisible to the eye, the public is in for even more of a thrill.
“I thought there was no glass there at first,” a zoo visitor said. “I knew there had to be something.”
The enclosure replicates the animals’ natural habitat in northern Pakistan where the orphaned Leo was found. Thomas took part in the expedition with Leo from Pakistan to New York.
“He’s still here, in an off-exhibit area,” Thomas said. “Snow leopard males don’t take any part in the rearing of their young, so it’s all up to mom.”
Zoo officials said the best time to see the cub is in the morning. In the afternoon, he often goes away for a nap.
So far, the baby weighs about 17 pounds, and will likely hit 85 pounds. Zoo officials have offered Pakistan the opportunity to provide his name, but have not heard back yet.
The Bronx Zoo was the first zoo in North America to exhibit snow leopards, in 1903. It has bred more than 70 since then.
The zoo currently has 10 snow leopards.
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