Baby Snow Leopard Cub on Death's Doorstep, But Zoo Keepers Have Fighter on Their Hands


Meet Khyber, a snow leopard cub born at the Bronx Zoo in the fall of 2017. Khyber is one very special cub for a number of reasons, one being her tenacious personality.

When Khyber was born, zoo staff closely monitored her to make sure the cub was healthy and properly developing. When Khyber reached an age where she should have been crawling around, veterinarians noticed an alarming problem.

Instead of crawling, Khyber appeared to be only using her front legs for movement. Zoo staff posted a video of the young cub trying her best to be mobile.

“As you can see, this snow leopard cub’s hind legs are splayed out, indicating swimmer’s syndrome,” Animal Planet staff wrote on social media. Khyber’s fascinating story was featured on Animal Planet’s television series, “The Zoo,” which explored the difficult decisions made to best help the young cub thrive.

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Khyber is the granddaughter of an important snow leopard named Leo. Leo came to the Bronx Zoo in 2006 after being found as an orphan in Pakistan.

“This snow leopard cub is special not only because it is an ambassador for its species, but because of its lineage,” said Dr. Patrick Thomas, the Bronx Zoo Associate Director who was instrumental in bringing Leo to the zoo.

Khyber will be an important part of advancing the snow leopard population in AZA-accredited zoos, Thomas told CBS News in 2017.

Veterinarian John Sykes was hopeful that daily physical therapy would correct Khyber’s hind legs. Without therapy, Khyber would never learn to properly walk.

The main concern, however, was that Khyber’s mother may reject her cub after repeated removal for rehab. If that happened, Khyber would be orphaned — left to be raised by humans.

“Our curators and veterinarians made the difficult decision to separate the cub from her mother each day for hours of physical therapy,” Bronx Zoo staff wrote on their website. Only time would tell how mother and cub would do.

“No one knew if the mother would take the cub back after being handled,” said The Zoo executive producer Lisa Lucas. “That moment when they see each other again actually takes your breath away.”

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Khyber’s story aired on April 28, where staff happily told the ending of Khyber’s story. Thanks to her daily rehab, “she mas made a great recovery and now has full use of her legs!”

Cub and mother are now a regular fixture at the Himalayan Highlands exhibit at the Bronx Zoo.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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