Melbourne Zoo is a part of Zoos Victoria, three Zoos in the city of Melbourne, Australia. The Zoo has had a number of beautiful snow leopards over the year including Gregor who sadly passed away late 2008 at the ripe old age of 20 years. I was very sad to hear about Gregor’s passing, I used to visit him a lot and he was responsible for my long standing interest in snow leopards. Adrian Howard, or “Howie” as he is known, the snow leopard keeper was also sad, saying that “Gregor was a pretty special cat. We all loved him. He was very gentle and always curious.”
Gregor’s mate, Shimbu. who shared the exhibit area with him, celebrated her 21st birthday in February 2010 but sadly passed away later that year. She is missed by all the staff, snow leopard sponsors and many of the regular visitors.
The zoo also has two younger snow leopards, Leon and Meo, both six years old, who bred in 2008.
In 2010 the cubs are over 18 months old and have had trial separations from mum, Meo. In late 2010 however, sadly the boy cub, Gobi passed away after he developed a cardiac respiratory problem. Zoo staff did every thing possible but were not able to save him.
Photographer Glenn McColl has become ‘official’ photographer of the snow leopards at Melbourne Zoo. He’s keen eye has been getting beautiful shots of these cats.
Here’s an interview I did with Adrian “Howie” Howard, Senior Carnivore Keeper at Melbourne Zoo about 6 months before Shimbu passed away.
“Simbu and Gregor, our two snow leopards that were together for 15 years. They obviously formed a bond over the years, and looked for one another and spent time together. After he died last year (2008) Shimbu would call for him in the mornings, she did that for a few months so it was obvious she missed him.
“She still calls occasionally but she’s a relaxed cat these days. She likes her food and has now accepted that she doesn’t have to compete with him any more for her tucker. She’s retired now and she can do what she likes. If it’s a little bit warm she’s straight back inside in the back and that’s OK with us.
She’s a relaxed cat, a terrific cat. She’s a great character, as was Gregor. Gregor was one of those cats that you remember for your whole career. I’ve been here for 15 years so I’ve worked with Gregor and Shimmy for my whole career. Losing an animal like him is very difficult, he was a special cat and I’ve been privileged to look after him.
Shimmy’s doing well for an old girl. We gave Shimbu a full medical a few months ago, we gave her an anesthetic, she’s a bit hard of hearing and her eye sight isn’t what it used to be and she’s also a bit stiff, but hey, she’s 20 years old, that’s seriously old – over 100 years old for a human.”
Snow leopards in the wild usually live for between 9-12 years.
September 2010 – Since I did this interview Shimbu has sadly died at the magnificent age of 21 years. All the staff and visitors of the Zoo will remember her fondly, she was a gentle and affectionate cat. I got to know her very early on and she and Gregor were very instrumental in getting my interested in snow leopards. In the early years they were very active cats and often showed a lot of interest in visitors. Certainly Shimbu and Gregor were magnificent looking cats, both large and very regal. “Towards the end she was a bit overweight”, said Adrian Howard, senior keeper, “but she was happy and that was the main thing.”