Rolling Hills Zoo is mourning the loss of one its animal family.
According to the zoo, their male snow leopard Gobi was found dead in his indoor quarters by his keepers during morning rounds on May 4th. There were no indications that anything was wrong prior to his death.
A gross necropsy has been performed. Tests showed that Gobi was negative for SARS and COVID-19. The zoo is now awaiting further results from the histopathology.
Gobi was born on May 25, 2009, at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle,, Washington. He moved to Rolling Hills Zoo on April 7, 2011.
Snow leopards are typically solitary animals in the wild, and although he was paired with several females at RHZ, he never produced offspring. In captivity snow leopards have been known to live as long as 22 years, but life in the wild is much harder, so the life expectancy is more likely to be 10 – 12 years.
According to his keepers, Gobi was sassy, headstrong and stubborn, and loved attention and interactions with his keepers. Some of his favorite games were playing chase as the keepersran along the outside of his habitat and stocking his keepers at supper time.
“He loved to play hide and seek,” shared Kira Noda, relief keeper. “We would play where I would ‘hide’ behind the rocks and he would pounce from the other side when he found me. He wouldn’t shift inside for the night until we played both chase and hide and seek.”
“He could brighten any day with his chuffs, tail twitches and spunky personality, and always had to add his two cents to a conversation,” shared his keeper, Siarra Abker. “Sometimes he would act like he was not paying attention to us, but his tail would always give him away because whenever we talked to him his tail would twitch, so we knew he was listening even if it didn’t seem like it.”
Gobi was trained to present different body parts which allowed the keepers to do physical exams on a regular basis. He was also trained to present his tail to his keepers so it could eventually be used for injections should the need arise. With the trainings, his favorite treat was chicken, and he also loved the sensory enrichment of rhino hay and nutmeg.
As one of the zoo’s featured artists, Gobi loved to paint. One of the keepers’ favorite memories was when they were paintingwith Gobi and he flicked paint at one of the keepers because she used too much paint and he was offended. It was his way of showing her who was in charge, and it wasn’t the keepers.
According to the Snow Leopard Trust, while exact numbers are unknown, there may be as few as 3,920 snow leopards left in the wild and probably no more than 6,390. Known throughout the world for their beautiful coats, this elusive cat faces numerous threats including poaching for snow leopard parts. Between 2008 and 2016, one snow leopard was reportedly killed and traded every day, 220 – 450 cats per year, and the true extent of the problem is thought to be even bigger. Other threats include habitat loss, mining and climate change.