Back to Newsroom

Potter Park Zoo Performs Snow Leopard Assisted Reproduction Procedure

April 5th, 2011

Hopes are running high today at Potter Park Zoo with the artificial insemination of a female snow leopard.

The momentous procedure is being led by Dr. Tara Harrison, Veterinarian at Potter Park Zoo and Dr. Herrick from the University of Illinois. This is only the second time that the artificial insemination of a female snow leopard is occurring without the use of surgery or anesthesia. Dr. Harrison and Dr. Herrick are assisted by staff from Potter Park Zoo and John Ball Zoo.

Serena, the female snow leopard, has been living at Potter Park Zoo since she was born nearly 13 years ago. Due to her familiarity with her caretakers, Dr. Harrison and zookeepers are able to use behavioral training techniques to position her for insemination without the use of anesthesia.

“Surgery and anesthesia would add more stress to Serena during this procedure, so by keeping her awake, we’re increasing the chances of the insemination being successful,” says Dr. Harrison.

After the breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP) in 2009, extensive research concluded that John Ball Zoo’s 11-year old male, Kaz, was a good genetic match for Serena. In March 2010, Potter Park Zoo attempted the first ever artificial insemination of a female snow leopard without surgery or anesthesia. The conception did not succeed last year. It will be approximately one month before Potter Park Zoo staff can determine whether Serena has conceived due to today’s insemination.

Potter Park Zoo will host the annual Snow Leopard SSP meeting in July 2011, where snow leopard experts from North America will meet to develop a new master plan for 2012. The master plan will outline all new breeding recommendations, transfers, and medical issues.

Potter Park Zoo is located at 1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave. within Potter Park along the Red Cedar River in Lansing, Michigan.  The zoo is open daily year-round, summer hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (517) 483-4222 or visit