Bronx, NY (Nov. 3, 2023) – Two snow leopard cubs are debuting at the Bronx Zoo. Snow leopards, among the world’s most elusive big cats, are rarely seen in the wild and are sometimes referred to as “the ghost of the mountains.”

The species lives in some of the harshest conditions on Earth; in high elevations in the mountains of central Asia, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its white-gray coat is almost invisible as it blends in with the terrain of rocky, high mountains. Snow leopards have large-padded feet—natural snowshoes—and long, thick woolly tails that help with balance and with keeping warm.

At the Bronx Zoo, the cubs can be found in the Himalayan Highlands. Currently, the Bronx Zoo has 10 snow leopards.

The cubs, one male and one female, were born this summer to mother, Dariga, and father, Naltar. Naltar is the offspring of Leo who came to the Bronx Zoo in 2006 after being rescued as an orphaned cub in Pakistan. Yet to be named, the zookeepers are generating naming ideas that best match the cubs’ personalities.

WCS’s Bronx Zoo is a world leader in snow leopard care and husbandry and participates in a Species Survival Plan program, a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Bronx Zoo has had more snow leopard births—at 80—than any other zoo in North America and was the first zoo in the United States to exhibit the big cats in 1903.

The Bronx Zoo is the flagship park of the Wildlife Conservation Society and is home to the society’s global conservation program which has a long history of snow leopard conservation in China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.

Hiking in the hills of northern Pakistan in the 1970s, WCS Senior Conservationist George Schaller spotted a snow leopard some 150 feet away. "Wisps of clouds swirled around," he later wrote in Stones of Silence, "transforming her into a ghost creature, part myth and part reality."

Snow leopards are classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with an estimated minimum of 2700 to 3400 adults but possibly as many as 4700-7500 in the wild. Snow leopard populations may still be dwindling across parts of their range due to poaching, both for its skin and for traditional medicine.