When beloved snow leopard Misha gave birth to a cub on May 6, 2018, Sacramento Zoo fans were thrilled. Unfortunately, the baby immediately faced some serious challenges.
The cub, named Coconut, was born with “swimmer’s syndrome,” KTXL reported. Due to his condition, the snow leopard’s hind legs naturally fail to support him and instead drag behind him as he moves.
The syndrome prevented him from walking correctly, stunting his growth.
Thankfully, Coconut had many caregivers looking after him. Refusing to give up hope, zookeepers began working with him immediately to invent solutions for the cub’s unique problems.
The cub received physical therapy and had to be separated from his mother, Misha, during his regular exercises.
The zookeepers took creative measures to strengthen Coconut’s legs.
“We were using the slings to lift him up and we’d just assist him gently,” zookeeper Amanda Watters told KTXL.
They also experimented with creating a narrow channel for Coconut to practice walking through.
A board was placed in front of a slab of concrete, allowing the cub just enough room to walk steadily for a short distance.
“It was only wide enough for his feet to stay directly under him,” Watters said.
This type of physical therapy allowed him to grow familiar with walking on four legs. He also underwent eyelid surgery to correct his eyesight.
Slowly and steadily, the little cub grew more confident walking on his own. According to the Sacramento Zoo, the little cub is now playfully exploring his new exhibit without any extra assistance.
Now that Coconut is mobile, he is more energetic than ever before — as a young snow leopard should be. He even celebrated his first birthday.
“It is like having a child. It’s like having a little toddler that gets into everything and is a little troublemaker,” Watters said.
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