Rare snow leopards are born at the Bronx Zoo

In May 2014, a pair of snow leopard cubs were born at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo. These rare cubs are now on display as part of one of the zoo's exhibits.

The pair of male cubs are healthy, and in a video, are playing and frolicking beside their mother in the zoo's outdoor Himalayan Highlands exhibit, which mimics the snow leopards' natural habitat.

The zoo bred the cubs as part of the Species Survival Plan program to increase animal diversity and populations in zoos across the U.S. The Bronz Zoo was the first zoo in the U.S. to feature snow leopards in 1903, and since then, has seen more than 70 born there.

Snow leopards have thick hair with wide feet that allow them to easily travel in snowy mountains. They have powerful legs and can jump as far as 50 feet. As predators, they can kill animals three times their weight.

Zoo officials are celebrating the births of the twin cats, which were born to first-time parents, because snow leopards are among the most endangered animals in the world. Native to the mountains of Central Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, India and Bhutan, there are only about 3,500 to 7,500 snow leopards worldwide. About 600-700 of those live in zoos around the world. Because they are typically shy, their exact numbers are not known.

Like elephants, these large cats are often hunted and killed for their gorgeous fur and for their bones and body parts, which are ingredients in certain traditional Chinese medicines.

The Wildlife Conservation Society also has a program in Pakistan to protect snow leopards, along with other wildlife. This program has created over 100 community rangers there to keep an eye on snow leopards and stop poaching and deforestation.

For example, community rangers in Afghanistan have taken over a thousand photos of snow leopards, as well as fitted five of the big cats with GPS collars to follow their movements. In April 2014, the country announced a protected preservation area for snow leopards, Wakhan National Park.

The cute new cubs at the Bronx Zoo currently weigh around 15 pounds, but zoo officials estimate they could eventually weigh up to 120 pounds. You can learn more about this adorable pair on the zoo's official website.

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