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Rare clouded leopard cubs born at National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center

One of two rare and endangered clouded leopard cubs that were born at the Smithsonian's Zoo Conservation Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia The National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center is celebrating the birth of two clouded leopard cubs -- the first births of their kind for the National Zoo in 16 years and the first in any North American zoo in six years. 

Clouded leopards, an endangered species, present major challenges to those attempting to breed them in captivity -- one big reason for the long gap between captive births.  Males are prone to aggression so severe that they often kill their potential mates.  Females have a tendency to kill their offspring accidentally or intentionally shortly after giving birth.

The successful breeding that resulted in the two newborn cubs was much longer in the making than their three-month gestation period.  Michael E. Ruane of the Washington Post explains:

Experimentation eventually suggested that if a male and female were raised together, the male would not kill the female once they reached adulthood and mated, Howard said. "You want to put the male in with the female, pair them up as early as possible," she said.

Hannibal and Jao Chu were such a pair. They were imported from Thailand last year, Howard said, and reached puberty together. Lang said experts believed the two mated several months ago at the center. About a week ago, curators realized Jao Chu looked as if she might be pregnant.

Several days ago, she was placed on a pregnancy watch, and when she turned down her usual snack of two dead mice Monday morning, Lang said they figured she was pregnant.

Early Tuesday, she vanished from the area of her enclosure that is monitored by video cameras, and about 1:30 a.m. Lang was summoned from his home on the center grounds. He unlocked the door of the leopard's enclosure, entered and spotted her in the corner with the two cubs.

The cubs' birth is especially important, the zoo says, because their genes come from outside the captive clouded leopard population.  Their sex won't be known until their first veterinary exam, and they won't be on exhibit to the public.

Clouded leopards are native to southeast Asia, where they're in danger of extinction due to hunting and deforestation. 

More photos of the newborns after the jump!

Two rare and endangered clouded leopard cubs that were born at the Smithsonian's Zoo Conservation Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia

One of two rare and endangered clouded leopard cubs that were born at the Smithsonian's Zoo Conservation Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia

One of two rare and endangered clouded leopard cubs that were born at the Smithsonian's Zoo Conservation Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia

One of two rare and endangered clouded leopard cubs that were born at the Smithsonian's Zoo Conservation Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia

-- Lindsay Barnett

1st & 3rd photos: Tracy A. Woodward / Associated Press
2nd & 5th photos: AFP / Getty Images
4th photo: Lisa Ware / AFP / Getty Images

 
Comments () | Archives (10)

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What an idiot, why are they being hand reared, did she abandon them, no real surprise there being disturbed at 1.30am.

I am glad to see these two babies. They are beautiful. Thank you for sharing these pictures with the public.

'Females have a tendency to kill their offspring accidentally or intentionally shortly after giving birth.'

Maybe you should read everything before you start bitching about how the cubs are beeing raised??

at Mike, maybe this is the reason why their being hand reared per the article above: "Females have a tendency to kill their offspring accidentally or intentionally shortly after giving birth." Why take the chance?

It is typical protocal to hand raise baby cloudeds. However, the article is wrong about this being the first two clouded leopards born in a US zoo for the past six years. The Tangynika Wildlife Park in Goddard Kansas has cloudeds born every year. Alot of what they mean is that it is one of the first born in a AZA facility in the past six years....go figure!!!

The mother may not have abandoned the babies or shown any danger of harming them but with captive breeding being such a difficult and important venture, handing raising the cups increases the risk of the cubs surviving.

Well they are cute and everything but according to "modern environmentalism" aren't we interfering in a natural process. I mean, we should be trying to lower the (people) population of South Asia rather than raising these animals in captivity. This species seems to have a death wish anyway: the males kill the females and the females kill the children; no wonder they are going extinct.

In response to the comment by Paul: Please read a little more carefully. The male is known to kill the female after mating IN A CAGED ENVIRONMENT. Clouded leopards are not going extinct because they kill each other, but because their natural habitat is being destroyed by humans, as is the case with many threatened species. And "lower the (people) population of Southeast Asia"? What kind of racist comment is that? Rather, we in the U.S. might consider curbing our lust for cheaply produced goods and foodstuffs, the production of which is encouraging countries like Thailand to destroy natural habitats in order to build factories and/or dedicate land to monoculture farming.

Ok guys, m brown is correct. These precious little ones might not survive with out human "mothering" . Hand reared cats by in large do better around people as they have had more contact than those who are reared by the natural mother. I have bottle fed kittens who were runts and would not have survived otherwise. Those little guys have been the best and most affectionate cats who have "owned " me.
Berit is right why take a chance . If you read about these cats, they are totally defenseless when born . If we are to be good stewards to these animals we need to do what we can to protect them.

awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!


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