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Meet Kovo and Raj

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The Snow leopard cubs made their debut to the public Aug. 27 for the first time.

SUPPLIED PHOTO BY DAN HARPER Enlarge Image

The Snow leopard cubs made their debut to the public Aug. 27 for the first time. Photo Store

Assiniboine Park Zoo’s new arrivals were fashionably late.

Appearing to the public Aug. 27, the two male snow leopard cubs, born June 29, finally walked into their new enclosure.

Media and visitors to the zoo hoping to catch a glimpse of the cubs were told to be at the enclosure for 11 a.m., but the leopards didn’t stroll in until around 45 minutes later.

"(At) eight weeks they are starting to explore their environment. Up to at least six weeks of age they stay in the nest box, just because they aren’t ready to come out yet," said Chris Enright, head of veterinary services at the zoo.

The cubs were named Kovo, an Indian name meaning strong, and Raj, meaning royalty or kingdom in many Sanskrit and Hindu languages, according to a release.

The cubs were named by the community via a Facebook poll.

First-time mom Batu, 4, entered the enclosure first to be given a carnivorous treat zoo staff displayed to lure her out. Enright said the fact that she is out without her cubs shows she feels comfortable enough to be away from them for a little while.

"She’s been doing an awesome job," said Enright. "She’s figured out this whole mothering thing."

Enright said crowds can still be intimidating for the four-kilogram cubs.

"The cubs are thinking about things," said Enright. "They’ve been seen looking at mom and checking out the crowds, but people are a little bit different for the cubs."

The cubs haven’t had much involvement with people other than their regular keepers, said Enright.

When they’re around two years old, he said, the cubs will be sent to other zoos to be paired with a mate.

"In all likelihood the two adults will stay here and the two youngsters will get paired in the species survival plan, this dating service for zoo animals," said Enright. "They will be sent to other zoos to maximize the genetic diversity." 

With the help of the cubs’ first-time father Henry James, 3, who zookeepers say gets along great with his sons, the two boys eventually made their way out.

They didn’t stray far from the den entrance, but they did sniff around a little bit and check out the crowd.

In the crowd was Carissa Makarchuk and her three children, who had travelled from outside Fort Frances, Ont. to visit her stepson.

"When we first got here we were told they were going to be releasing the babies today," said Makarchuk. "So we didn’t know and it’s a very exciting and an unexpected surprise."

Enright said though they haven’t grown to their full size yet, they already have the cat attitude.

"They are already getting a little feisty about things," said Enright. "When we went to vaccinate, they don’t know we’re helping them, and they aren’t quite trained to accept it yet, so it’s teeth and claws a little bit. It’s giving them the medicine they need but making sure they don’t take some of their anxiety out on us."
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