Snow Leopards in the Winter at Binder Park Zoo
Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan is home to one of the best snow leopard exhibits in the country, the Smith Snow Leopard Encounter. Opened in 2008, the Smith Snow Leopard Encounter provides the rare opportunity for visitors of the Zoo to see a snow leopard up close in an environment that promotes natural behaviors and beautiful photo opportunities for amateur and professional photographers alike. I took all of these winter time photographs of these beautiful big cats with a simple Canon Powershot digital camera.
How I Got These Shots
When doing any zoo photography, I have found that patience and a memory card with a lot of room on it is the best way to capture that perfect image of your favorite exotic animal. Snow leopards are by far my favorite animal and I spent a lot of time at the exhibit at Binder Park Zoo. The Smith Snow Leopard Encounter is designed perfectly to set up images like the ones that you see in this photo gallery, which helps immensely for an amateur photographer like myself. Many zoos and aquariums across the country are beginning to design exhibits with this concept in mind.
When photographing animals, you have to work on their schedules. If the snow leopard I was was snapping pictures of wanted to sit at the back of the exhibit and hide the entire time, I would have just had to come back another day and try again.
To get the perfect shot of a snow leopard, you might have to spend hours at the exhibit and even then, you might not get what you were looking for. That's ok! Most zoos and aquariums across the country allow you to purchase an annual pass or membership that gives you free admission for an entire year and usually a discount on admission to other zoos across the country. I highly recommend purchasing a membership to your local zoo and using it to visit regularly. Usually, membership costs are about what it would cost you to visit the zoo twice. If you come more than that, you've paid for it and you will also get some additional benefits like discounts in the gift shops. Each day at the zoo can be a new adventure!
How You Can Help Save Snow Leopards
- Support you local zoo or aquarium. Even if your local zoo or aquarium does not have snow leopards, the work that they are doing for conservation and education can benefit snow leopards and many other endangered species. Each time you visit a zoo you are making a difference.
- Subscribe to the International Snow Leopard Trust's e-mail list. The Snow Leopard Trust does great work when it comes to conservation of snow leopards and by being an e-mail list member, you will be well informed on what you can do to help these awesome cats.
- Spread the word. Post a link to this page or www.snowleopard.org to your Facebook and get your friends excited about snow leopards.
What Binder Park Zoo is doing to Save Snow Leopards
Binder Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan. This program is in place to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse captive population of snow leopards in accredited zoos in the United States and around the world. Basically, the AZA manages the captive population of snow leopards and makes recommendations on snow leopard breeding in zoos. Currently, Binder Park Zoo has a breeding pair of snow leopards who last had a cub in 2008. This baby snow leopard, Shanti, was raised at Binder Park Zoo until just after her first birthday. After Binder Park threw a birthday party for her, Shanti was sent to her new home in Akron, Ohio based on a recommendation from the AZA. She is a good genetic match to a young male snow leopard there and will hopefully someday have cubs of her own.
Binder Park Zoo participates in between 15 and 20 Species Survival Plans at a time, depending on the recommendations of the AZA. Each time you visit BPZ, the money you are spending at the entrance booth, the gift shop, the restaurant, and even the change you might put into one of the gravity wells goes to support programs like these that are working to ensure the conservation of species like the snow leopard.