Northern snow leopard twins to go separate ways

Loki and Luna
Loki and Luna

Twin snow leopards born in Milnthorpe are to be re-located to Poland and Italy as part of an international breeding programme.

Loki and Luna were born in May last year at Lakeland Wildlife Oasis.

They are the first ever snow leopards to be born in the North of England.

Their arrival sparked a record year for the charity, which plays a crucial role in preserving a range of endangered species.

Now the male, Loki, is heading to Plock Zoo in Poland where a snow leopard facility is being newly built.

His sister, Luna, will be heading to Parco Faunistico Le Cornelle in Italy, which has a suitable male.

Their parents, Tara and Pavan, will be staying in Milnthorpe.

Jo Marsden, who runs Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, said: “It’s been absolutely lovely to have the twins born here and they’ve been a firm favourite with our visitors.

“The international breeding programme is done via a stud book and both Loki and Luna are flagged for future breeding.

“We’ll be sorry to see them go, and I’m sure there will be a few tears. But it’s tremendous to know we’ve played a part in helping secure the future of these wonderful animals.”

The cubs are not suitable for reintroduction to the wild but they could be moved to captivity in the Himalaya with the eventual aim of re-populating wild areas with captive-bred leopards. Certainly, their eventual offspring will be helping to maintain a healthy captive population of snow leopards.

There are thought to be about 3,500 leopards left in the wild, and there are about 600 in captivity.

Wild leopards are incredibly hard to track and therefore count. Another problem is that in the remote areas where they live they can be a threat to domestic farm animals.

The Snow Leopard Trust raises money to help communities living with snow leopards in Himalayan areas. Loki and Luna have been the stars of a series of fundraising days at Lakeland Wildlife Oasis.

Lakeland Wildlife Oasis Assistant Manager Jayne Gibbins said: “The leopards can sometimes be hunted, and there is an issue with them taking farmers’ stock. If a snow leopard takes a sheep then the farmer is paid by the Trust as if the sheep had been bought at market. The Trust also helps farmers to make better corrals.

“It’s about supporting those communities. There are initiatives like snow leopard products such as stuffed toys being made there and sold over here.”