World’s most famous endangered snow leopard passes peacefully

Fri 2nd February

With heavy hearts, we are devastated to share the news of the passing of our much-loved snow leopard, Panja, here at Hertfordshire Zoo.

On 27th January, after a brief illness, our dedicated veterinary team made the compassionate decision to peacefully put him to sleep. 

Panja has held a central role within the Hertfordshire Zoo family since his arrival in 2013, having arrived from a Czech Republic zoo. He was an essential part of the European Breeding Programme, an initiative dedicated to safeguarding and nurturing the future of these majestic big cats. His presence swiftly won the hearts of our staff and visitors alike. 

Born in 2011, Panja joined our ranks to further the cause of conservation. In 2015, he was joined by his beloved companion, Jessie, and their exceptional bond became a global sensation, captivating millions through social media. 

Together, they became a dynamic duo, captivating the hearts of countless individuals worldwide. CCTV footage from their den offered glimpses of tender moments, including cuddles and affectionate moments. 

Panja, renowned for his calm personality, discovered his playful side in Jessie’s company, forming a distinctive and heart-warming partnership. He displayed a cautious demeanour in new surroundings, often allowing Jessie to take the lead. Despite his more reserved nature, all who encountered him were charmed by his gentle character. While not the most exuberant participant in enrichment activities, he displayed a preference for intriguing scents strategically placed within his habitat, particularly those with a more potent aroma. 

Their favoured pastime was an animated game of chase around their habitat, with our cameras diligently documenting their endearing and amusing interactions daily. Panja’s substantial online following elevated him to the role of an extraordinary ambassador for his species, cultivating affection not only among our zoo visitors but also within a global audience deeply passionate about the welfare of big cats.

Director, Tyler Whitnall said “With profound sadness, we announce the loss of Panja the snow leopard. Days like today impact the entire zoo community deeply, highlighting the pivotal role of animal conservation to securing their survival for future generations.”

As conservation advocates, we support The Snow Leopard Trust who lead on snow leopard conservation across five Central Asian countries. Their work is fundamental in protecting the species in the wild for future generations.  

Panja, your absence leaves an indelible void that can never be filled. You will be profoundly missed.



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