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Cape May Zoo snow leopard dies after cancer fight
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Cape May Zoo snow leopard dies after cancer fight

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Himani 2010

Himani, the Cape May County Zoo’s female snow leopard who successfully raised four litters of cubs in 12 years at the facility, is shown here in 2010 with one of her offspring. Himani, who suffered from cancer, was euthanized Friday.

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.”

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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.