An infant snow leopard has died at the Cape May County Zoo.
Zara, born on May 19 along with with two siblings, died on Oct. 2 after becoming “acutely ill” on Sept. 29 and receiving medical intervention and treatments, according to a release from the zoo.
An MRI and clinical signs suggested that Zara suffered from severe infectious encephalitis, a zoo spokesperson said, adding that results are still pending to identify the exact cause of death.
The zoo says the female snow leopard had an “immature immune system” due to her young age, allowing the infection to act so quickly and aggressively.
The spokesperson said staff is closely monitoring Zara’s sister, Ahana, and mother, Tysa, 4, for any signs of illness. The father, Bataar, 8, is kept in a separate area because he could eat his young. The latest litter is the fifth born at the zoo and the first since 2013.
Zara’s name, which means princess, is reflective of snow leopards origin in the Himalayas, where they roam the cold, snowy mountain range.
Snow leopards have recently become endangered throughout the China region. According to the Wold Wildlife Fund, only between 4,080 and 6,590 remain in the wild.