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Playing with snow leopards

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Ailouros, 28 Apr 2015.

  1. Ailouros

    Ailouros Member

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    I attach a pair of photos I took almost a year ago at Twycross Zoo on 1 May 2014. A young snow leopard - I believe it was his first birthday - stood up with his paws on the glass, looking at a child on the other side. The child put his hand against the glass, opposite the snow leopard's paw. As the child moved his hand, the snow leopard moved his paw to match. This game lasted a minute or so, a minute which I guess the child will never forget.

    Almost a year later on 14th March 2015 I was at Paradise Park in Hertfordshire attending an evening talk, before which we were allowed to wander round the zoo. One of the keepers, aware of my love for cats, advised me that dusk was when they were most responsive and suggested I went round the cat enclosures. When I visited the snow leopard it was almost dark and doubtless he could see much better than I could - and we ended up playing peek-a-boo from either side of the glass. No picture I'm afraid - too dark!

    I told the keeper about this, thanking him for his suggestion and mentioned my Twycross experience. I then asked him if snow leopards were noted for such playfulness and responsiveness. He said they were - and I now love them inordinately.

    Is this not an argument that at least some zoo animals with no prospect of being returned to the wild should be encouraged to interact with humans, acting as ambassadors for their species? Their lives would be enriched too.
     

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  2. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    I watched one of the Twycross snow leopards high fiving some visitors not so long ago, for about 5 minutes. I wonder if it's the same one.
    As for the ambassador role, I wouldn't encourage it. Babies that are rejected by parents or a group could maybe go down that road, but I though the idea was to to release their offspring further down the line and therefore restrict their human interaction.
     
  3. Benosaurus

    Benosaurus Well-Known Member

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  4. Macaw16

    Macaw16 Well-Known Member

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    I think if an animal was reared by humans then yes, it should have close interactions with people because, if one day it was playing with humans the next it stopped completely; the animal would suffer to an extortionate extent.

    But if it wasn't (or didn't require being hand reared in the first place) than no, it shouldn't be encouraged.
     
  5. Ailouros

    Ailouros Member

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    I think there is a case for having two categories of captive animal. Where there is indeed a possibility that the animals be returned to the wild, human interaction should be avoided and the animals kept in conditions as natural as possible. In the case of carnivores such as cats, this should involve the opportunity to hunt and capture live prey, a policy which would meet with much opposition. But if this is not done, the breeding success of these cats will not relate to their hunting ability and a population may be produced which cannot cope with wild conditions. Selection pressures in zoos are not the same as in the wild and I have heard that when zoo-maintained Arabian Oryx were returned to the wild (the original wild population being extinct) the locals who remembered the original population said 'this is not the same animal', so much had it changed under the different selective pressures in zoo populations.

    Many individual animals however have no prospect of being returned to the wild - these include but do not consist only of those which had to be hand-reared and which would indeed suffer if deprived of the human contact they had become used to.

    I am not suggesting that any animal be forced to accept human contact if unwilling - the snow leopards I mentioned initiated the interactions themselves yet neither was hand-reared. Surely they would have been more stressed by being ignored than by acceptance of their wish to interact.

    I overheard visitors at a zoo which had servals say 'they're boring - they ignore you'. Rather than dismiss people who react like this as having no real interest in or love for the animals, is it not worth stimulating their interest by having at least some animals who are responsive? I love cats already, but my love for snow leopards was enhanced by my experiences.
     
  6. taun

    taun Well-Known Member

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    Ever watched the documentary on training tigers to hunt for eventrual release on a reserve (albeit Africa)...some will thrive some will struggle and die. Natural selection surely (sounding a bit like Damien Aspinall :eek:) On a side note, anyone know if that was succesful, the website I think never got updated?

    I am sure my kittens although never hunted will when old enough to go outside hunt, catch and kill prey. I think sometimes we over think are wild friends.


    They looked different or behaved differently?

    Any reintroduction program will have issues at first, but you are hoping that natural selection will eventrual bear fruit and you have an animal 99% to what was there before (and that is if the environment has not changed since).

    Interacting with an animal is so pleasing to us, that is not a surprise people enjoy it. Ethan (white cheeked gibbon) at Twycross was a crowd favourite before his move. Although some took this too far and would feed him.

    Chester zoos female sumatran orangutans, often can be seen next to the windows (being hand reared it is not much a surprise) but they tend to watch then interact with public.
     
  7. Macaw16

    Macaw16 Well-Known Member

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    What I didn't mention was it shouldn't be discouraged either.