‘Love at first sight’: Snow leopard at Toronto Zoo pregnant for 1st time

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Skiers stumble upon snow leopard in Kashmir, India
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Jita, a nearly three-year-old snow leopard at the Toronto Zoo, is pregnant for the first time, staff there say.

However, the zoo is expressing “some caution” over the news given “first-time pregnancies present challenges,” especially with large carnivores like snow leopards.

“Inexperienced mothers don’t always know what to do,” the zoo said in a Facebook post Friday.

“The snow leopard care team is busy making preparations to ensure the best possible outcome regardless of the situation.”

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The zoo added Jita’s pregnancy is complicated by the fact the expected father, Pemba, has sired prior litters but medical complications meant none of his cubs survived.

“Ongoing ultrasounds will monitor her progress and we remain hopeful this pregnancy continues to go smoothly,” it added.

‘Love at first sight’

Nine-year-old Pemba was introduced to Jita in early February on a recommendation from the snow leopard “Species Survival Plan” — a cooperative breeding program among accredited North American facilities, the zoo said.

“It was a case of love at first sight,” it said.

“Jita and Pemba were observed breeding multiple times on February 6th and 7th.”

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Meet the Calgary Zoo’s new snow leopard Leika

Typical snow leopard pregnancies last anywhere between 90 to 110 days, placing Jita’s likely birth window sometime between May 6 and May 27, the zoo said.

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Jita’s care team has been working diligently to establish ultrasound behaviour, but given her belly fur is so thick, it needs to be very wet for the ultrasound to penetrate.

The snow leopard, also known as the “ghost cat,” is not often spotted in the wild and is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list, the zoo added.

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