Shynghyz, one of the snow leopards in Tama Zoo, Tokyo, is most probably the oldest snow leopard in the world. Steve Tracy who lives in Tokyo, is one of Shynghyz’s biggest fans and photographs him often. Tracy says “Shynghyz is still going strong, and with any luck, will turn 26 in December. Quite a feat!”
Apparently Shynghyz was captured in Kazakhstan in Central Asia’s mountains, when he was just 18 months old. Nowadays it is illegal to capture wild snow leopards but sometimes, although rarely it still happens, usually when villagers come across young cubs they assume to be in danger and capture them for what they believe is their own good.
Shynghyz, whose name comes from the word ‘Ghengis’ as in Ghengis Khan, spent 10 years at Almaty Zoo in the capital of Kazakhstan and in 2000 he was sent to Tama Zoo in Tokyo which has been his home ever since.
In December this regal old cat will be 26 years old, an amazing age. He has fathered nine cubs at Tama Zoo, most of which have been sent to zoos far and wide. His cubs were sent to zoos in Europe and Central Asia as part of the global zoo snow leopard breeding program, but Ena, his 4 year old daughter, is the first of his cubs to go to North America. Last week she was moved from Tama Zoo to Toronto Zoo which will be her home and where keepers hope she will breed.
Steve Tracy says “Shyngyz is the much loved icon of Tama zoo, and fingers crossed, he’ll be around for a while yet.”
Read more on what zoos are doing to protect their snow leopards. Read about medical care and enrichment activities which enable this species to survive to such an old age in comparison to their wild cousins who only live to ten or eleven years of age.