Changing Planet

Snow Leopards Take Up Manhattan Residence

One of the world’s rarest and most charismatic big cats, the snow leopard, has moved into very fancy digs in New York’s Central Park. Heating and airconditioning are included.


WCS photo by Julie Larsen Maher

“The exhibit’s rugged evergreen habitat, complete with a rocky waterfall, replicates the critically endangered snow leopard’s home below the tree line in the mountains of Central Asia,” says a news statement by the Wildlife Conservation Society, operator of Central Park Zoo.

The multi-million-dollar exhibit’s design makes use of the latest behavioral enrichment ideas and technology. “Hot rocks provide warmth during the winter; and shallow caves and trees offer shade in summer. Fog and a waterfall add ambient cooling and dramatic visual effect; rocks and deadfall encourage the cats to pounce and play,” WCS said.


WCS photo by Julie Larsen Maher

Three cats in the exhibit can be viewed nose-to-nose from two lookouts.

“This wonderful new exhibit will offer its visitors a quick escape from New York’s urban landscape to Asia’s great mountain ranges,” said Steven E. Sanderson, WCS President and CEO. “We hope that all who visit this exhibit will be inspired to join our efforts to help save these animals and other rare species around the world.”

Scientists estimate there are only a few thousand of these cats left in the wild; approximately 700 live in captivity.

WCS is a world leader in the care and conservation of snow leopards. The Bronx Zoo, also operated by the conservation charity, became the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to exhibit the rare spotted cats in 1903.


WCS photo by Julie Larsen Maher

In the past three decades, nearly 80 cubs have been born in the Bronx as part of the SSP, and have been sent to live at 30 zoos in the U.S. and eight countries in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. All the WCS snow leopards are a part of the Species Survival Program (SSP), which helps ensure healthy populations of select endangered species in zoos, WCS added.

Central Park Zoo’s new snow leopard facility includes an off-exhibit area that will serve as the breeding area and can accommodate cubs.


WCS photo by Julie Larsen Maher

The Allison Maher Stern Snow Leopard Exhibit is named in recognition of a $7 million leadership gift to the WCS Gateways to Conservation campaign by Allison and Leonard Stern. “Mrs. Stern has a personal passion for animals and volunteered at the Central Park Zoo in 1988. She has been a WCS trustee since 1992 and currently serves as Vice Chair of the WCS Board,” WCS said.

Related news:


Snow Leopards, 32 Other Species Receive Protection in Afghanistan

LEOPARD PICTURES: Rare Snow Cats Caught by Camera Traps


Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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