Meet Sossy, the Milwaukee County Zoo's new snow leopard

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee County Zoo  announced Thursday, September 25th the birth of a male snow leopard cub.  The cub, named Sossy, was born June 1 to first-time mother, Tomiris, and father, Genghis.  The last snow leopard litter born at the Zoo occurred in 2000.

Now almost 4-months-old, Sossy is healthy and doing well – walking, climbing and venturing about in his indoor, off-exhibit area.  At birth, Sossy weighed 500 grams, and now he weighs a healthy 16 pounds, and has received his third set of vaccinations.

Interestingly, Sossy was born with his legs splayed in a condition known as “swimmer puppy syndrome,” being able to only drag his back half behind him.

"He was actually splayed when he was born so couldn't actually walk on his own, so we've been doing a lot of intensive physical therapy with him to correct his leg and now he can actually walk on his own. He can run around here," Amanda Ista with the Milwaukee County Zoo said.

Zookeepers worked to correct the condition through physical therapy sessions, having Sossy walk between two wooden boards to guide his legs in the correct position. They also massaged his legs and encourage him to play on balance toys, such as a plastic rocking horse, to improve his strength.  They also used dog physical therapy techniques.

It seemed Sossy enjoyed his therapy sessions, and by the 3-week mark, he willingly crawled into his crate at the beginning and end of the sessions.

In the wild, snow leopards are found at altitudes between 9,800 and 17,000 feet in the high, rugged mountains of Central Asia.  Very rare in most of their range, an estimated 4,000 to 6,500 snow leopards remain in the wild, with just over 150 in American Zoo and Aquarium accredited zoos. Solitary in nature, snows pair only in the breeding season, and unlike other big cats, they are unable to roar.