What's new at Basel Zoo

A new female snow leopard arrived at Basel Zoo on 12 March. Rangi met male snow leopard Mekong, but their love story started off somewhat one-sided.

Rangi (2) came to Basel from the Espace Zoologique la Boissiere du Dore (France) and quickly joined the young male Mekong (2), who was born in Basel Zoo. It was definitely not love at first sight. Mekong showed interest in the new arrival but Rangi is a very cautious and reserved snow leopardess. If Mekong came too close, she kept him away by hissing and growling at him. Visibly startled by this, Mekong retreated and hid himself away. When they were first getting to know each other, only the tip of his tail was visible from somewhere behind a rock - that’s if any part of him was visible at all!

The pair have warmed up to each other since then. Rangi ventures into the outdoor enclosure more often and calls out for Mekong, who returns her call with interest. Her trust in the animal keepers is also continuing to build and she approaches them curiously when they call her. Rangi is now less shy in front of visitors too and calmly lounges around in the outdoor enclosure even when there is a large crowd.

Breeding programme for rare cat species

Rangi and Mekong are supposed to provide offspring one day, but it will be a little while until that day comes, as they are both still teenagers at the age of only two. Rangi was chosen with the help of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) following the unexpected deaths of both partners in Basel Zoo’s breeding pair in late autumn last year, which died from different causes. A female snow leopard which was genetically suited to Mekong was sought; in cases where partners are selected through the EEP, this means that both partners are as genetically different from each other as possible. 

Snow leopards are critically endangered in the wild and little is known about them as they are very shy and live reserved lives. 75% of all wild snow leopards live in China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Pakistan. Only 4000 to 6500 individuals live in the vast area encompassing the mountainous regions (up to 4500 metres above sea level) of Central Asia. The main threat to their existence is the lack of prey, which are driven away by the presence of livestock. Snow leopards are also killed because they hunt livestock.

Basel Zoo is supporting a conservation project

Basel Zoo supports the Snow Leopard Trust, an organisation which works to protect these rare cats, by selling its products in the zoo shop. The Snow Leopard Trust is the biggest research and conservation programme for snow leopards in the world. The Snow Leopard Trust is looking for ways to improve how humans and snow leopards can coexist, for example by offering livestock insurance for local farmers or providing alternative sources of income. The Snow Leopard Trust therefore sells products which are made by the local population. Basel Zoo is one of its customers and a selection of the products can be found on sale in the zoo shop.