Travel & Tourism

Two of the world’s most elusive big cats have just arrived at Chester Zoo for the first time

Elusive and cute.

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 21st March 2024

There are two adorable new arrivals at Chester Zoo, with one of the world’s hardest-to-see big cats now in residence for the first time.

The beloved northern attraction has just welcomed a pair of snow leopards for the first time in its 93-year history.

The highly threatened big cats have just moved into a huge new Himalayan habitat at the zoo, which has used more than 600 tonnes of scree and rocks to recreate mountainous terrain.

In the wild, snow leopards are one of nature’s most elusive animals, living in high-altitude areas where climate change is threatening to erode their natural habitat. They’re also under threat from poaching and retaliatory killings following cases of human-wildlife conflict.

Sightings of these majestic mammals are now so rare that they are nicknamed the ‘ghost of the mountains’.


But now a gorgeous pair of snow leopards have moved into Chester Zoo – male Yashin and female Nubra.

They have been carefully matched through a conservation breeding programme and it’s hoped that (now they’ve ‘hit if off’ straight away) they may go on to have cubs.


The zoo has today released the first images of the animals exploring their new home, ahead of it opening to the public on Monday 25 March.

Chester Zoo has welcomed a pair of snow leopards for the first time in its 93-year history.
Chester Zoo has welcomed a pair of snow leopards for the first time in its 93-year history. Credit: Chester Zoo

Mike Jordan, Director of Animals and Plants at the zoo, said: “The arrival of snow leopards is a huge milestone in our zoo’s long history and signifies our commitment to protecting another of the world’s most threatened big cat species.

“Yashin and Nubra are both just over 18 months old, so they’re incredibly playful, inquisitive and full of energy. They’re also both now at the age where they’d naturally start to leave their mother and become independent, which is why they’ve been paired up here at Chester Zoo as part of a European conservation breeding programme, which is working to safeguard the species from becoming extinct.


“Now that they’ve had some time to settle in and explore their new home here in Chester, the pair appear to have really hit it off and, in time, we’re hopeful that they’ll go on to have cubs together.

“This incredible new habitat not only offers visitors spectacular viewing opportunities and a fascinating glimpse into the harsh, yet beautiful world that snow leopards inhabit. It’ll also help conservationists here to learn more about the lives of these iconic cats, helping to further support global conservation efforts for the species.”

Mayukh Chatterjee, Regional Field Programme Manager for Asia at the zoo, added: “Not only have we created a fantastic new home for Yashin and Nubra here at Chester, we’re also joining forces with fellow conservation charity, the Snow Leopard Trust, to contribute to vital efforts to conserve snow leopards and safeguard communities that live alongside them, to foster coexistence.

“The keeping of goats, chickens, sheep and cows is a major source of income for local communities living in Kyrgyzstan. Snow leopards can sometimes wander into communities in search of prey and kill farmers’ livestock, which often results in retaliatory persecution of the big cats. By working alongside these communities, we hope to safely build up their resilience to snow leopards while also helping them generate income through a range of other sustainable livelihood initiatives which are also ‘snow leopard friendly’.

“We’ve seen huge success with this in other areas of the world with communities in Bolivia that live alongside Andean bears, and villagers in India that live in close proximity to Asian elephants, and we’re confident we can similarly improve the co-existence between people and these highly threatened cats.


“We’re hopeful that these efforts in Kyrgyzstan, in conjunction with our conservation breeding efforts here at the zoo, will play a positive role in creating a future where snow leopards not only survive, but go on to thrive.”

The new snow leopard habitat will open to the public from Monday 25 March. Entry is free, with normal zoo admission and tickets can be booked at

You can watch the video of Yashin and Nubra in their new home below.

Read more

Featured image: Chester Zoo