This weekend. Snow leopard cubs. Northumberland Country Zoo. Need we say more?!
This weekend, Northumberland Country Zoo is set to make history for the North East – by becoming the first and only place in the region to be able to offer visitors a chance to see snow leopards.
Powerful, captivating and elegant, snow leopards are one of the world’s most elusive cats. Nicknamed ‘the ghost of the mountains’, their shy natures, love of alone time (can relate) and camouflaged coats make them incredibly difficult to spot in the steep, snowy cliffs of the Himalayas and central Asia they call home. In fact, it’s actually so rare to see two snow leopards together that there’s no term for a group of them – unlike a parade of elephants or a cackle of hyenas.
Having already been struggling with the steady loss of their natural habitats (thanks to a mixture of global warming and over-farming), the additional impact of poaching has devastated the world’s snow leopard population. It’s thought that up to 450 of these beautiful creatures are killed every year – mainly in retaliation from preying on farmers’ livestock, but also for sale in the illegal fur trade. There are now only around 4,000 snow leopards left in the wild, with the rest of their population protected in conservation projects around the world. And as of today, Northumberland Country Zoo can call itself one of them.
Earlier this morning, two female snow leopard cubs (as yet unnamed) were introduced to their new home: a purpose-built enclosure within the zoo, with plenty of space to roam around in. There they’ll be looked after by a team of specially-trained keepers in a project that has been months in the making.
Luckily for us, it also just happens to coincide with the zoo’s grand, post-lockdown reopening.
‘We’re so excited to welcome the young cats to the family,’ says zoo curator Maxine Bradley. ‘Their arrival signals yet another chapter for Northumberland Zoo, as we strive to be one of the most exciting, conservation-focussed attractions in the region. Snow leopards are renowned for being highly elusive in the wild, so we’re truly privileged to have them here, offering the public an unprecedented chance to get up close and learn more about these beautiful creatures.’
Having chosen to initially stay closed after lockdown lifts on Thursday to allow the cubs a couple of extra days to settle into their new surroundings, the family-run zoo will host an exclusive, snow leopard-themed reopening ceremony on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th December – and you’re all cordially invited.
You will, however, have to fight all of us at HLN for a ticket. We can’t wait to catch a glimpse of these gorgeous little fluffballs (keep an eye on our Instagram to see if we’re successful). And for everyone looking for something they can actually do at weekends now we’re in Tier 3, the weekend’s themed goodies and COVID-compliant face painting means it’s also a good shout for somewhere to take the kids.
‘The cats’ arrivals represent a fantastic boost for the region at a time when good news isn’t so forthcoming,’ says Maxine. ‘We can’t wait to welcome visitors in to see them!’
Northumberland Country Zoo adheres to the very highest standards of hygiene and visitor safety, meaning it’s only making available a restricted number of tickets – so act fast!
Get your tickets here: www.northumberlandzoo.co.uk
CUTE SNOW LEOPARD FACT
Unlike other large cats, snow leopards cannot roar. They can mew, growl, yowl and chuff. You know, just in case you didn’t think they could get any cuter.