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Toronto Zoo says 'friendly and determined' snow leopard Jita is pregnant

The Toronto Zoo says Jita the "friendly and determined" two-year-old snow leopard, shown in a handout photo, is pregnant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Toronto Zoo **MANDATORY CREDIT**

TORONTO — The Toronto Zoo says Jita the "friendly and determined" two-year-old snow leopard is pregnant.

Jita was brought to the Toronto Zoo in January after she was identified as a suitable match for nine-year-old male Pemba, who zoo officials describe as playful and sensitive.

Zoo officials claim it was "love at first sight" – or smell – between the pair of snow leopards.

They say Jita's birthing window is likely between May 6 and 27, but the size of her litter has not been confirmed.

In a news release, the zoo does say the pregnancy announcement comes with some caution.

It says Pemba has sired litters before but none of the cubs survived due to medical complications, plus first-time pregnancies can be hard for inexperienced snow leopard mothers, such as Jita.

"With this knowledge, the snow leopard care team is busy making preparations to ensure the best possible outcome regardless of the situation," the news release said. "Ongoing ultrasounds will monitor her progress and we remain hopeful this pregnancy continues to go smoothly."

The Toronto Zoo is part of a co-operative snow leopard breeding program among North American accredited zoos.

Snow leopards are considered a vulnerable species on the International United for Conservation of Nature list. They are found in the steep mountains ranges of central and south Asia, stretching from Russia to the Himalayas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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