Philadelphia Zoo Snow Leopard Cubs to Undergo Surgery

Philadelphia Zoo and University of Pennsylvania School
of Veterinary Medicine to perform minor eye surgery.

(October 6, 2011) - The Philadelphia Zoo’s two snow leopard cubs, born on June 2011, will undergo minor surgery to correct eyelid abnormalities. The cubs are otherwise developing well, weigh about 20 pounds each, and are playing, eating, running and jumping normally.

During routine physical examinations several weeks after birth, the Zoo’s veterinary staff discovered the eyelid abnormalities. In this condition, called an upper eyelid coloboma, a portion of the upper eyelid fails to develop properly, leaving a gap at the edge of the eyelid which can lead to eye irritation. The cause of this condition is not well understood, but it occurs in a variety of animals and in humans, and appears to be more common in snow leopards than in other species.

“We are working with veterinary specialists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, who have offered their expertise in assisting the Zoo’s veterinary team to provide the best care for the cats,” says Dr. Keith Hinshaw, the Zoo’s senior veterinarian and Director of Animal Health. “Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists from Penn Vet will perform any necessary corrective surgery on the cubs’ eyelids, as well as make recommendations on post-surgical care to prevent future eye irritation,” says Hinshaw.

Exams and necessary surgeries will be performed in the next weeks, after the cubs are completely weaned, which is typically about four months after birth. After treatment the cubs will remain indoors for about two weeks until healing is complete. The Zoo looks forward to their public debut in November.

Snow leopards, native to the high mountains of Central Asia, are endangered in the wild due to habitat destruction, conflict with humans, and poaching. The Zoo supports snow leopard conservation through contribution to the Snow Leopard Trust.

To learn more about the snow leopard cubs, click here.