'Love at first sight': Toronto Zoo's white leopard Jita pregnant for first time

Toronto Zoo announces pregnancy of snow leopard saying "there might be a little snow in the spring forecast this year"

The Toronto Zoo says Jita the "friendly and determined" two-year-old snow leopard, shown in a handout photo, is pregnant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Toronto Zoo **MANDATORY CREDIT**

The Toronto Zoo announced Friday "there might be a little snow in the spring forecast this year," sharing that three-year-old snow leopard Jita is pregnant for the first time.

In a press release shared to the zoo's website, the pregnancy was confirmed by ultrasound, though her thick belly fur "makes it challenging to confirm litter size." Nine-year-old Pemba is the expectant father.

Jita and Pemba were introduced in early February 2024, with the zoo writing "it was a case of love at first sight."

According to the Toronto Zoo, typical snow leopard gestation lasts 90 to 110 days placing the arrival of her babies in early May.

While the news is exciting, the zoo warns there is some reason to caution.

"First-time pregnancies inherently present challenges (especially with large carnivores) since inexperienced mothers don’t always know what to do," the zoo writes in a statement.

Additional cause for caution comes from the fact that Pemba has previously sired prior litters, but none of his cubs survived due to medical complications.

Armed with this knowledge, the snow leopard care team is making preparations to ensure the best possible outcome, with ongoing ultrasounds monitoring Jita's progress.

'We remain hopeful this pregnancy continues to go smoothly," the zoo writes.

The elusive snow leopard, also known as the "ghost cat," is rarely spotted in the wild and is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list.

Fewer than 7,000 of the wildcats remain in the wild, according to research conducted by the Snow Leopard Trust.

The Toronto Zoo participates in the snow leopard Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a cooperative breeding program amongst AZA accredited North American facilities.