Exhibit Spotlights Endangered Big Cat of Asia’s Great Mountain Ranges And The WCS Conservation Efforts to Save Them

Habitat Includes Latest in Behavioral Enrichment and Technology: Hot Rocks for Winter Warmth, And Shallow Caves, Trees, Waterfall and Fog for Summer Cooling

Rocks and Deadfall Encourage Pouncing and Playing!

New York, N.Y. (June 11, 2009)– The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) today unveiled the Allison Maher Stern Snow Leopard Exhibit at its Central Park Zoo.

This spectacular new habitat offers visitors an up-close view of the snow leopard; one of the world’s most critically endangered big cats. Scientists estimate there are only a few thousand of these cats left living in the wild. There are approximately 700 in captivity. Three of these majestic cats now live in the Central Park Zoo.

"This wonderful new exhibit will offer all its visitors a quick escape to Asia’s great mountain ranges and a close-up viewing of the rare snow leopard,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, WCS President and CEO. "We hope that all who visit this exhibit will be inspired to join our efforts to help save these animals and other rare species around the world. We thank Allison Maher Stern, the City of New York, and all our donors who have made this exhibit possible.”

“Animals have always been a passion of mine, but the work of the WCS dedicated staff here and around the world really brings meaning to exhibits such as this,” said Allison Maher Stern, Vice Chair of the WCS Board. “Both my husband and I are very proud to participate in any way to support efforts such as the opening of this beautiful new exhibit here at Central Park Zoo.”

The latest in behavioral enrichment ideas and technology were used in the design of the exhibit. These opportunities will ensure the health and well being of the animals, as well as provide an excellent educational opportunity for the visitor. Hot rocks provide warmth during the winter; and shallow caves and trees provide shade during the summer. Fog and a waterfall add ambient cooling and dramatic visual effect.

The off-exhibit area will serve as the breeding area and can accommodate offspring for five years in high quality space, both on and off exhibit. All the WCS snow leopards are a part of the Species Survival Program (SSP), which manages the genetic diversity for snow leopards in captivity. WCS has been involved in the management of this SSP for many years.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo was the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to exhibit snow leopards in 1903. Today, the Bronx Zoo has five of these big cats. Nearly 80 cubs have been born at the Bronx Zoo over three decades with individual animals sent to 30 zoos in the United States and eight countries in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.

Invaluable Support

The exhibit is named the “Allison Maher Stern Snow Leopard Exhibit” in recognition of a $7 million leadership gift to the WCS Gateways to Conservation campaign by Allison and Leonard Stern. Mrs. Stern has a personal passion for animals and became interested in WCS when she was a docent at the Central Park Zoo in 1988. She has been a WCS Trustee since 1992 and is Vice Chair of the WCS Board.

The exhibit is also a tribute to an outstanding public-private partnership and the commitment and vision of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, the New York City Council, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

WCS and Snow Leopards

WCS has a long history of working on snow leopard conservation efforts in the wild, including:

  • Dr. George Schaller’s wildlife surveys on snow leopards and their prey in the Himalayas in the 1970s. He followed up that work, beginning in 2001 to the present, with field research in China, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.
  • Support for snow leopard conservation and research in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan.
  • And Co-sponsorship of the 2008 International Snow Leopard Conference in Beijing.

In Washington, WCS leads a coalition of more than 80 organizations engaged in advancing the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act of 2009. This legislation would protect more than a dozen big cats and wild dogs - including snow leopards – by establishing a new U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Program to support the world’s rarest predators. The Act has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and currently awaits action by the Senate.

The Central Park Zoo, a Wildlife Conservation Society park, is located at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for senior citizens, $5 for children 3 to 12, and free for children under 3. Admission includes entry into the main Zoo and the Tisch Children’s Zoo. Zoo hours are 10am to 5pm weekdays; 10am to 5:30pm weekends. Tickets are sold until one half-hour before closing. For further information, please call 212-439-6500 or visit www.centralparkzoo.com

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation

Barbara Russo