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Toronto Zoo says Jita the snow leopard is pregnant

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The Toronto Zoo says there will be "a little snow in the spring forecast this year" as one of its snow leopards is expecting her first cubs.

The zoo released a video Friday showing two-year-old Jita getting an ultrasound, though it is difficult to tell how many cubs she's expecting.

Her care team said that Jita’s thick belly fur made the procedure a challenge, requiring “a lot of extra ultrasound gel.”

Jita became pregnant after being introduced to nine-year-old Pemba in February on a recommendation from the snow leopard Species Survival Plan. According to the zoo, "it was a case of love at first sight" when the two met.

Pregnancy usually lasts 90 to 110 days in snow leopards, meaning that Jita will likely give birth sometime in mid-May.

The zoo cautioned that first time pregnancies present challenges for snow leopards since inexperienced mothers don’t always know what to do. It also noted that Pemba has sired prior litters, but none of his cubs survived due to medical complications.

"With this knowledge, the snow leopard care team is busy making preparations to ensure the best possible outcome regardless of the situation," the zoo said in a statement. "Ongoing ultrasounds will monitor her progress and we remain hopeful this pregnancy continues to go smoothly."

The snow leopard, also known as the "ghost cat," is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list. The Toronto Zoo participates in a breeding program with other accredited zoos in North America to help preserve the species.

"Through the Species Survival Plan, we maintain a sustainable population of snow leopards in human care to preserve their genetic diversity and allow them to serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts," the zoo said.

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