A pair of rare snow leopards could be about to make the move to Chester Zoo
A pair of rare snow leopards could be about to make the move to Chester Zoo after a planning application was submitted for a new habitat.
It would mark the first time in its 91-year-history that the zoo has been home to the animals, which are usually found in the mountains of central Asia in countries such as Mongolia and Nepal.
The Zoo – the country’s most visited tourist attraction outside London with 1.9m visitors a year – has applied to Cheshire West and Chester Council to construct an enclosure for the leopards as part of its wider planned Himalayan-themed development.
The animals are among the most elusive species in the world. Habitat deterioration, poaching and climate change are now threatening their survival with only around 4,000 thought to be left in the wild. As of 2017 they were no longer classed as ‘endangered’, but ‘vulnerable’.
If the plans are given the green light, a male and female snow leopard would be transported to the zoo at some point next year.
The 1,500 sq m area would be build on part of the Zoo which currently houses the blesbok (antelope) habitat and wetland bird nursery, which would be relocated to the Conservation Breeding and Management Area (CBMA) located on Caughall road.
The plans include a single story animal building surrounded by a five metre retaining wall, with a netted enclosure encompassing the whole structure at a height of eight metre to the rear and five metres to the front, with a public viewing gallery also being built.
A design and access statement submitted in support of the plans, said: “The snow leopard is an iconic species with significant public draw and should help drive visitation to the zoo during a period with no other major visitor developments taking place.
“In terms of educational messaging, the zone will provide an understanding of how climate change affects and threatens species, as well as illustrating how water cycles work, from mountain to sea.”
The statement said that in keeping with the general principles of Chester Zoo’s plans the proposed development would exhibit the snow leopards in naturalistic-themed and planted surroundings with ‘high standards of animal welfare’ and visitor facilities, where the snow leopards can be viewed throughout the year either inside or out.
No date has yet been set for a decision. The plans can be viewed on the council’s planning portal under the reference: 22/03737/FUL
By Mark Smith – Local Democracy Reporter
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