LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Snow leopards are known as some of the "world’s most elusive cats”, but you won’t have to do much searching to find them in Louisville. You can find them at the Louisville Zoo, and they have a brand-new exhibit! We talked to Michael Jones, a curator for the Louisville Zoo, to find out more about these felines -- and their new digs, Snow Leopard Pass.

Q: What makes the Snow Leopard Pass exhibit so unique?

Jones said the new space was built with the snow leopards in mind. It’s much larger than the zoo’s previous snow leopard exhibit, giving the animals more room to move around.

“It gives them a lot of climbing features, there’s cool spots built into this, and then we have, like, a climbing area with the passage,” he said. The exhibit is also equipped with shady areas, coolers, and misters to keep the snow leopards chill, even during Louisville summers.

Louisville Zoo snow leopard

Q: Snow leopards are generally solitary creatures. How does the new exhibit maintain that?

According to Jones, the three snow leopards the Louisville Zoo houses – Kimti, Meru, and NeeCee, will rotate between the main exhibit, the passage, and an outdoor area. That way, each animal gets plenty of alone time.

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“So, on any given day you can see a different animal in a different space and then the third space is kind of their day off,” he said.

Q: What’s one awesome fact about snow leopards that you think would surprise people?

“I would say they're very well-built for snow, which is obviously in their name, but really big feet, long coat, short ears,” Jones said. Those feet are padded with cushions of hair, which keep the leopards from sinking in the snow and increase traction on slippery surfaces.

Louisville Zoo snow leopard

“They can actually use that tail as a rudder when they're climbing up and down these rocks. They can also use that tail as a scarf around their face,” he added. That built-in scarf would definitely come in handy in the wild, since snow leopards are known for living in some of the harshest conditions on Earth, according to WWF.

You can learn more about snow leopards, Snow Leopard Pass, and get tickets to visit Kimti, Meru, and NeeCee on the Louisville Zoo website.

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Contact reporter Rob Harris atrjharris@whas11.com. Follow him onTwitter (@robharristv) andFacebook

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