The Como Zoo is celebrating the birth of a snow leopard for the first time in 12 years, calling it part of a "significant, successful" breeding plan.
Alya, the 4-year old mother, gave birth to the cub on April 30, the first child for both she and the father, 6-year-old Moutig. Alya and the cub - whose gender is not yet known - will remain off exhibit until later in the summer, the zoo says, allowing them to bond in a quiet space.
For now, they'll be monitored by zoo staff via video camera. Alya has so far shown "exceptional" care to her cub, the zoo adds.
The cub's name will be determined via an auction, as part of the zoo's annual Sunset Affair Gala.
Why is this so significant?
Well first off, it is the first snow leopard birth at Como Zoo in 12 years.
But in addition, as Como explains, Alya came from Germany and Moutig from France as a breeding pair, with a number of North American zoos vying for them. But Como won out, in part because of Minnesota's climate and the zoo's history with snow leopards, Como says.
The breeding was "carefully planned and recommended" by the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan, under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Snow leopards are considered a vulnerable species - not as dire as "endangered," but still at risk. The main threats are poaching, loss of prey, and breaking up of habitat, Como Zoo says.
And here's some pretty great description of their behavior, provided by the zoo:
With their thick, cream-colored coats and gray-black spots, snow leopards camouflage so well within their rocky habitat high in the Himalayas that they are known as the “ghosts of the mountains.” With the ability to leap down heights of 60 feet, snow leopards are said to be the most agile of the “big cats.”