ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque BioPark is mourning the loss of a longtime resident. Azeo was the oldest male snow leopard within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums network. According to the Associated Press, the 19-year-old snow leopard was found dead in his outdoor exhibit space Thursday, the ABQ BioPark Zoo said, and results from a necropsy are pending. Snow leopards usually live up to 12 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
He arrived in Albuquerque in 2004 from the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Canada and sired 12 cubs with former mate Kachina and two with his second mate Sarani. Kachina died in 2017 at age 14 of an inoperable tumor in her neck and throat. Azeo’s offspring can be found in zoos from Anchorage to Memphis. Staff at the BioPark remember his great personality and gentle nature.
“He hadn’t been sick at all. There were some age-related changes to his body but no signs of illness,” zoo manager Lynn Tupa said. “He was a happy cat, so it was shock to everybody to find that he had died.”
Park officials said most snow leopards are elusive and solitary but that Azeo was gentle with the female leopards and interacted with zoo employees.
“Snow leopards generally come together just for breeding, but he just loved sitting next to his mates and spending the day with them,” Tupa said. Azeo also recognized zoo regular visitors and interacted with them, she said.
The zoo still has three snow leopard, including Sarani, Tupa said. She added that the zoo anticipates getting more snow leopards. It was unclear when and how many.