With Valentine's Day in the background, Binder Park Zoo officials are hoping there will be some "romance" in the air for a pair of snow leopards.

Snow leopard introductions are underway at Binder Park Zoo! A two year old female snow leopard named Victoria arrived at Binder Park Zoo in August from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium under a Species Survival Program (SSP) breeding recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This breeding recommendation paired Victoria with the zoo’s male snow leopard, Raj, with the hopes of producing a litter of cubs. - Binder Park Zoo

What made this possible is a necessary change to Michigan animal breeding laws. In March 2019, the Large Carnivore Act was amended to allow AZA accredited zoos to be licensed to breed large carnivores with a Michigan state permit.

Snow Leopard Raj at Binder Park Zoo. (Photo provided by Binder Park Zoo)

Previously, the Large Carnivore Act prevented the breeding of large carnivores in this state. The last snow leopard cub born at Binder Park Zoo was a female named Shanti. Shanti was later transferred to Akron Zoo where she has since produced eight cubs, including Raj, born in 2012. Raj came to Binder Park Zoo in 2013 and is a guest favorite.

According to a release, the zoo’s Animal Care staff have been working to introduce the Victoria and Raj. Kathryn Sippel, Curator of Collections said, “We’ve been carefully monitoring both animal’s behaviors and watching for cues from Victoria that she’s ready to meet Raj.  Of course there are always risks, but with our experienced, well-trained staff, solid support from the SSP, and two snow leopards who hopefully like each other, we are crossing our fingers for a positive outcome.”