Though snow leopards are the largest predator in some of the highest elevations of Asia, they are exceedingly adept at hiding in plain sight. Highly patient, with coats that perfectly camouflage against snow and dark wet rocks, snow leopards will station on an open mountainside as they wait for their prey to approach. They have even been known to reach out with a paw and stop small rocks or pebbles from sliding and giving away their position.
In Big Cat Falls, this is can be an interesting translation. As keepers working with cats that rotate among several exhibits, we find the snow leopards to be some of the calmest neighbors for the other cats. They also have unexpected interests. Amga is quite good at shifting to the three different exhibits available to him, as well as the various bedrooms. He is non-confrontational to the bigger cats, so he is a good neighbor when in the center Big Cat Falls exhibit.
Prior to our female lion being paired with her mate, Amga and Tajiri would run the fence line together from opposite sides in their respective exhibits, interacting with each other in an interested, positive way. Now that Tajiri is a new mom, we chose Amga to be the first neighbor for her and her cubs.
Similarly, when Maya and her cubs Buck and Ranney explore the third exhibit yard, they most enjoy seeing our older female lion, Zenda. You will often see Buck down lying at the gate watching Zenda when she is outdoors at the same time he is.
As silent observers, you will also find that all of the snow leopards enjoy the north section of the new Big Cat Crossing. They are quiet, but they are very interested in what happens around them—so look up to check the tunnel to see if they are observing you!
By Kay Buffamonte, KeyBank Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper