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Meet the ‘snowballs’: Snow leopard at Toronto Zoo gives birth to 2 cubs

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Snow leopard at Toronto Zoo gives birth to 2 cubs
WATCH: Snow leopard at Toronto Zoo gives birth to 2 cubs – May 16, 2024

Jita, the Toronto Zoo’s nearly three-year-old snow leopard, has given birth to her first cubs, staff there say.

In a Facebook post Thursday, the zoo said Jita gave birth to two cubs. When her pregnancy was announced, the zoo expressed some caution given that first-time pregnancies present challenges with large carnivores like snow leopards.

“Jita is doing very well as a first-time mother and is diligently nursing, grooming, and cuddling her ‘snowballs,’” the zoo said.

“Her wildlife care team is monitoring the new family closely via CCTV cameras to minimize any disturbance, and will be closely observing the development of the cubs.”

The zoo added that Jita went into labour following her 97-day pregnancy on Monday, giving birth to her first cub that night, with the second following in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

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Jita and her new cubs are not currently visible to guests visiting the zoo, but it promised it will share when guests will be able to see them.

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

‘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 co-operative breeding program among accredited North American facilities, the zoo said.

“It was a case of love at first sight,” the zoo said on April 19.

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

Jita, a nearly-three-year-old snow leopard, has given birth to two cubs following her first pregnancy, the Toronto Zoo says. Toronto Zoo/photo

Typical snow leopard pregnancies last anywhere between 90 and 110 days.

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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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