Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Zoo's twin snow leopard cubs die

Snow leopards
The young cubs were said to have been thriving before their illness

Brother and sister snow leopard cubs have died after becoming ill with feline cowpox, at their home in the Welsh Mountain Zoo.

The zoo said post-mortem checks point to pneumonia and a secondary infection.

The cubs arrived in May, and their mother Otilia, and mate Szechuan, are at the Colwyn Bay zoo as part of a European breeding programme.

It is estimated that there are as few as 4,000 snow leopards remaining in the wild.

Everyone at the zoo has been devastated by the deaths, said zoological director Nick Jackson.

He said the cubs had been making tremendous progress and were the "pride and joy" of all the zoo, and in particular the keepers looking after them.

It was hoped the adult snow leopards would breed again next year, he added.

Otilia was born in Tallinn Zoo in Estonia in April 2005 whilst Szechuan was born at Szeged Zoo in Hungary in May 2005. They arrived at Colwyn Bay three years ago.

The Feline Advisory Society describes feline cowpox as an "uncommon skin condition that usually affects cats which enjoy hunting small rodents".

The society said that the condition usually got better on its own, but when a cat's immune system was suppressed the infection could develop in a severe and generalised way.

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