Unique Enrichment for Snow Leopards at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Friday December 1 2017

Keepers at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park have provided snow leopards, Chan and Animesh, with some special enrichment.

Picture by: Sian Addison/RZSS

Around once a month the pair of snow leopards are temporarily placed in their upper holding pens and the Turkmenian markhors are moved into the enclosure to graze.

As the markhor move around and explore, they naturally leave scent trails which provides the snow leopards with lots of enrichment and scents to follow once the markhor are safely returned to their regular enclosure.

Appropriate enrichment stimulates natural behaviours such as foraging and scent marking which are good for the animals physical and mental well-being.

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park is one of a very few zoological facilities, that temporarily swaps animals into other enclosures, exposing them to new sites and smells.

Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park said

“The dynamic nature of our snow leopard enclosure, coupled with a novel approach to the husbandry of these mountain cats, allows our leopards to display an unusually broad range of their behavioural repertoire. 

“Given our climatic specialisation, snow leopards were always going to be an ideal fit for the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park and we believe we have gone further than any zoo in the UK to give them a home that meets so many of their needs.”

The snow leopards’ enclosure is purpose-built to replicate their natural environment, with a steep cliff face and rugged terrain echoing their natural hunting grounds high in the rugged mountains of central Asia.

The enclosure provides the pair with plenty of natural enrichment and room to explore.

In 2015, RZSS signed a three-year agreement with the Snow Leopard Trust and Nordens Ark in Sweden, to work collectively on conservation issues within snow leopard range states.

This agreement involves field research being carried out to both aid conversation efforts and provide an educational tool.

Today snow leopards are protected throughout much of their range and international trade is banned by their listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).



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