The female snow leopard who successfully reared four litters of cubs at the Cape May County Zoo died Friday, zoo officials said Sunday.
The 17-year-old big cat was “peacefully euthanized following a battle with cancer,” according to a news release from Cape May County.
“Himani was an incredible mother, and an important member of our Zoo family, she will certainly be missed by the staff and visitors,” said Dr. Alex Ernst, associate veterinarian at the Zoo. “We feel fortunate that she was here with us during the past 12 years. Her contributions to the conservation of her species and to the future of the Cape May County Zoo are immeasurable.”
According to the zoo, Himani was born in June 2003 and came to the Cape May County Zoo in 2009 from the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.
“Upon her arrival, she was paired with Vijay, the Zoo’s male snow leopard, and over the next 4 years, Himani and Vijay would successfully rear four litters of cubs,” the release said. “Himani proved to be an excellent mother, successfully raising seven healthy and strong cubs. Her accomplishment had impacts felt throughout the country.”
Much of the publicity around the snow leopards focused on the cubs born to Himani, rather than on the mother.
The zoo said Himani greatly helped the zoo’s Species Survival Program at a time when snow leopard breeding success was at a low point.
“Her cubs, after maturity, would move on to other zoos across the country where they would carry on her legacy and genetics to raise cubs of their own,” according to the zoo.
The zoo gained national attention through the successful birth of seven snow leopard cubs, which made it a must-visit destination throughout the region, according to the county.
“On behalf of myself and my colleagues on the County Board of Commissioners, we are truly saddened by the passing of Himani. She was a superstar and a huge draw for visitors who made a visit to the snow leopard habitat one of their top attractions,” said Commissioner E. Marie Hayes, liaison to the Cape May County Parks and Zoo. “She will be missed.”
The Cape May County Zoo is open daily from 10 am. until 3:30 pm. The parks are open from 7 a.m. until dusk daily. Visitors from age 2 and above are required to wear masks, social distance and follow the directional signage in the zoo, for the safety of the staff, animals and others. The Park and zoo are free, but donations can be made to the zoo via cmczoo.com.
GALLERY: Cape May County Zoo through the years
After being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cape May County Zoo is reopening Saturday.
The zoo will reopen to the public at 10 a.m. with new safety precautions in place to keep visitors, staff and the animals safe from COVID-19, according to a news release from the county. During this time that the zoo was closed, in accordance with an Executive Order from Gov. Phil Murphy, the zoo staff continued to maintain the zoo and take care of the animals following strict safety protocols.
“Our guests have been waiting for the day that we could reopen the Zoo,” said Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, liaison to the zoo. “The staff has done a wonderful job in the time we have been closed caring for the animals and creating dozens of Virtual Zoo videos for schools. But there is no substitute for the real thing. People will now be able to go back to our zoo this weekend.”
Tree to Tree Adventure Park is also reopening at the zoo, which is an aerial adventure and zip line park, according to the release.
“It is a proud day to say that we are reopening the Cape May County Zoo,” said Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton. “I was talking daily with the Governor’s Office and Freeholder Hayes on this issue. I want to commend Freeholder Hayes, who was a strong voice in reopening the Zoo, and the entire Zoo staff, for the hard work they have put into getting reopened and the plans put in place to keep everyone safe.”
Some of the safety measures being put in place now include asking every guest over the age of 2-years-old to wear a mask when visiting, according to the release. This is for the protection of both the guests and animals, as some of the species are known to be the susceptible to the virus.
Guests are asked to maintain social distancing from other groups and families when visiting, according to the release. A one-way directional flow throughout the zoo has been set up to reduce the amount of interactions between guests where possible. Capacity of the zoo will be watched closely to ensure it doesn’t get overcrowded with guests. Also, the Aviary and Reptile House will remain closed at this time.