It’s time to break out the mittens, wrap the scarf around your neck and don that sock hat that usually spends its days in the corner of your closet.
All for a 70-degree Sunday in Paradise.
You might look a bit silly, but for good reason — the annual Snow Leopard Festival at the Santa Barbara Zoo is slated for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, complete with 80 tons of snow that will allow for kids to take sledding runs.
Santa Barbara Zoo members have early access to the festivities starting at 9 a.m.
The snow will also be utilized as an enrichment for a handful of the animals, with the zoo’s new snow leopard, Kisa, getting her first experience of snow in Paradise.
The otters and lemurs will also get to enjoy the snow, as well as a few others.
Kisa is slowly making her way out into the public eye a bit more, as she took a few weeks to get used to her new environment, moving from the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City in November 2019.
Kisa, which means “kitty” in Russian, is a non-breeding female. In the wild, snow leopards are usually solitary other than during mating season or when the female is raising her young.
Snow leopards are a highly adaptive species, with their large paws acting as snowshoes, thick fur insulating the body in all temperatures and enlarged nasal cavities to facilitate breathing in cold climates. They are most commonly found in Central and South Asia.
In September 2017, the International Union for Conservation of Nature downgraded the snow leopard’s species status from “endangered” to “vulnerable,” with preservation efforts pushing the population to roughly 4,000. To be on the “endangered” list, you must have 2,500 mature individuals or less, while “vulnerable” is less than 10,000 mature individuals.
After getting a glimpse at Kisa, the festival will feature six sledding runs, with two “bunny” slopes for younger children. Sledding tickets are $5 and sold at the zoo’s front game, with sleds provided by the zoo. The sledding is reserved for children only.
The snow play area includes a place to paint in the snow with watercolors and a holiday card craft area, including a snow-leopard craft. There will also be face painting and a 25-foot “Mount Everest” climbing wall.
The play area is open to those 12 and under.
There will be snow leopard toys and books available for purchase, with proceeds going to the Snow Leopard Trust, which supports snow leopard conservation.