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Zoo plays cupid with snow leopards

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — Officials at a Michigan zoo are hoping its male snow leopard hooks up with a female snow leopard he was paired with through a breeding program that aims to give the threatened species a boost.
Battle Creek’s Binder Park Zoo recently introduced Victoria, a 2-year-old snow leopard that arrived in August from Omaha, Nebraska’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, with Raj, who’s been at the Binder Park Zoo since 2012. Until Victoria arrived, the 7-year-old Raj was the lone snow leopard in Battle Creek. Zoo officials are hoping the pair will mate and produce a litter of cubs.
The big cats were matched through a Species Survival Program breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquarium to make sure they were genetically compatible, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.
“They do have a ‘dating profile,’ so to speak, but it’s driven by science rather than romance,” said Leslie Walsh, manager of marketing and development for Binder Park Zoo. Walsh said the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan maintains genetic data on the snow leopard population and makes breeding recommendations focused on the goal of genetic diversity.
Kathryn Sippel, the curator of collections at Binder Park Zoo, said zoo officials had been watching the animals closely for cues from Victoria that she’s ready to meet Raj.
Mating season for snow leopards is January through mid-March, followed by a gestation period of 98 to 104 days.