Snow Leopard flies Finnair to new Belgian home


Finnair Cargo carries all kinds of items. One example of a unique passenger is Jeti, a two-year-old snow leopard transported on Monday, May 26 from Finland to his new home in Belgium.

The snow leopard, named Jeti, traveled four hours by road from Ähtäri Zoo in western Finland to the Finnish capital Helsinki before being flown to Belgium and embarking on another 70-kilometer road trip to Pairi Daiza garden zoo.

Pairi Daiza (meaning “enclosed gardens” in ancient Persian) is a theme park zoo where the animals and vegetation are part of a wider cultural setting representing countries such as China, Thailand and Indonesia. It was voted as both Best Zoo and Best Theme Park in Belgium and The Netherlands in 2013.
“Jeti is moving to Pairi Daiza because we are opening a Chinese village area in the zoo, and snow leopards inhabit the region of China that we’re focusing on,” says curator Tim Bouts. “We contacted the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for assistance and they introduced us to Ähtäri – and to Jeti.”

Safe and sound

Transporting dangerous animals safely by air requires specialist know-how. For Jeti, this is being provided from Brussels by transport and logistics network Animal Logistics Worldwide (a division of a. hartrodt). In Finland Finnair Cargo worked with Airport Travel Cargo Finland Oy to ensure a succesful completion of the project.
“We’ve been transporting animals for 15 years,” says a. hartrodt’s Tim Van Praet. “It’s not necessarily something we do every day, but we do transport a lot of zoo animals all year round, and worldwide.”
Animals such as snow leopards may be dangerous, but since they are locked in cages there is no threat to cargo handlers or other personnel. 
“We have to consider everything from stress-free conditions, health of the animals, legislation and paper work, so it takes time before an animal can actually fly. There are not so many agencies that can handle this kind of cargo assignment,” says Van Praet.

Rare and endangered snow-colored cats

Jeti is leaving a special home to move to his new residence. According to Zoo Director Mauno Seppäkoski, Ähtäri Zoo specializes in Nordic and coniferous forest species, providing an authentic wilderness environment for the animals. 

Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are valued for their fur, which reaches high prices in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia, and their bones and other body parts are used for traditional medicine in Asia. 

“This demand and other environmental factors place the species at risk of extinction. Breeding programmes at zoos like the ones we have at Ähtäri and Helsinki are doing their best to mitigate those risks,” tells Seppäkoski. 
Adult snow leopards can weigh up to 55 kilograms, measuring about 60 centimeters at the shoulder, and up to 1.2 meter from nose to rump. As predators, they prey on sheep and ibex, for example. The estimated global population of this beautiful animal stands at between 4,000 and 6,500, distributed across an Asian belt from Afghanistan to Mongolia and China. The average life span of an animal is 10 to 12 years, although they can live much longer in captivity.
For these unique passengers, Finnair Cargo provides safe and quick animal transport services to most direct Finnair destinations (from outside of Finland to Helsinki only).
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Text by Tim Bird
Photo by Ähtari Zoo via "Pohjanmaan kautta" initiative

Published May 7, 2014

Category: Collaboration