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Helen Freeman dies at 75

“The Jane Goodall of snow leopards” – or Helen Elaine –famous for her advocacy on behalf of the increasingly rare central Asian big cats, has died at 75.

Freeman died Thursday of lung disease, according to the International Snow Leopard Trust, which she founded in 1981 after becoming fascinated with two of the creatures at a zoo.

Freeman traveled to Asia, Europe and around the United States to drum up support for protecting the endangered cats in their native habitat.

She was born Helen Maniotas, the only child of Greek immigrants, and married Stanley Freeman in 1958.

Her interest in snow leopards began with Nicholas and Alexandra, obtained from the Soviet Union in 1972, while she was working as a volunteer docent at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Freeman earned a degree in animal behavior at the University of Washington, then helped design a program that overcame problems for zoos in getting snow leopards to breed in captivity. Nicholas and Alexandra produced 29 cubs.

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