A day at the Welsh Mountain Zoo

Snow LeopardFemale Sumatran TigerFallow DeerFallow DeerPrzewalski's Wild HorseSnow LeopardsSnow LeopardsSnow Leopard furSnow LeopardsSnow KittySnow kittySnow Kitty about to climb a treeSnow kitty climbing a treeSnow Kitty in a treeRed PandaRed PandaRed PandaRed Panda Cubs22MargayMeercatBirdsView of the nearby village and sea

The boxing day before last my sister, my father and I went to the welsh mountain zoo – primarily to see the snow leopards. A few months prior to that my sister had been to see the two new snow leopard cubs, and she wanted to see how they were getting on. My sister loves animals, and of them, cats are her favourite. She didn’t want to leave the zoo that time, because she was enjoying watching the snow leopard cubs so much! During that visit we saw that the zoo was raising money to refurbish the snow leopard enclosure, and I made a mental note of that.

Fast forward: last year, Christmas. I thought to adopt one of the leopards for my sister, as a donation and fabulous present. I was poking around the website though and discovered the animal encounters. For a small fee, you can meet the zoo keeper and get a little closer to an animal of your choice and feed them. For the snow leopards there would be a safety barrier of course- this wasn’t like the tiger centre my sister and I went to in Changmai, where the tigers were as tame and playful as domestic kitties (and the one we went to they were not drugged. We absolutely do not support that!) We were able to meet them and touch them and they loved…well tolerated, cats are cats are offish, it. These snow kitties were a little wilder. I still thought my sister would love it.

Fast forward further: this year, the 2nd of January. The encounter ticket allowed a third person to come but not take part. So my dad came alone to act as taxi driver and photographer. We were worried about the weather, but it was still and calm as we drove and we didn’t know it then, but it was going to remain that way- with an icy edge to the air that the snow leopards would love. We got to the zoo around 1pm and went to see the tigers first, then the paddocks with a a very out of place ostrich pair and some beautiful Przewalski’s wild horses and deer. The horses were very shy and the deer were very curious – the one deer had lost sight in its one eye though, the poor thing, so it was struggling to be curious: it was trying to look at me but you could tell it couldn’t focus. We then ended up getting a little lost and not seeing too much and having to rush to get to the office to meet the zoo keeper. Thankfully the zoo keeper was a little late, so there were no problems. He led us to the snow leopard enclosure and took us to a small part round the back, where there was just one fence separating us from the cats. He set down a bucket of meat, my sister and I put on gloves, and then we took turns feeding the kitties using very long, very strong metal prongs whilst chatting to the zoo keeper. Our dad was let round the back, but had to stand back and was not allowed to feed them. This made photographing easy for him.

The kitties were adorable. It was just the parents and the boy cub left- who wasn’t much of a cub any more! He was pretty huge. We found out from the zoo keeper that the leopards reject their children at about two years old, so they try to send them away before that. The sister/girl had been sent down south, and the brother/boy was 18 months old, and ready to go, but was being sent to Japan which would take a bit more time and paperwork! Of the three only the boy ate, he ate it all! The parents could have chased him off but they couldn’t be bothered.

Soon enough the food dwindled and disappeared. My sister and I de-gloved and sanitised our hands then we were allowed to stand for a moment to observe and talk more with the keeper. He has been with the snow leopards from the start, so he knew everything. It was really interesting. The snow kitties themselves were fairly active- washing and lazying and playing around. My sister took pics but I trusted in my dad, I just wanted to enjoy the moment …be more present…not see it from behind the lens?

Eventually it had to end, we parted with the cats and their keeper and then went to look around the zoo some more- I was pretty keen to see the red pandas! Unfortunatly one was curled up in its tree and completly passed out, but the other climbed down just as we got there, and led us straight to the two red panda cubs they have. They were tucked up in the private area of their enclosure, but we could just about see them from afar. At two months old, they seemed full grown! Then we meandered around some more, and eventually ended up at the Margay enclosure where we had our second lucky encounter of the day – the Margay was out! It was darting around so fast we only just saw it, and could hardly photograph it, but its a very shy, nocturnal creature so it was pretty exciting to get even a glimpse! I think I saw a similar cat at a night zoo in Asia, but it was something else to have it come out in the day.

Honestly, it was an amazing day out. There weren’t any crowds and all the animals were about, even the kitties and we even caught site of the brown bears… The zoo is lovely and small and always quiet in the winter, which makes for a very pleasant day out. I’m so happy with how thrilled my sister was with it all too. This Christmas was the first that I was working so I went all out with my presents, and I feel so happy to finally be able to give back to my family not only the wonderful things they have blessed me with, but the wonderful experiences.


Kitty may have eaten too much…