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Rare clouded leopard cubs born at Nashville Zoo

June 17, 2009 |  2:12 pm

Clouded leopard cubs

Back in March, the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center announced the birth of two clouded leopard cubs. The cubs' birth was big news, in part because clouded leopards are severely endangered and in part because the species presents unique problems to those attempting to breed it in captivity.  (Male clouded leopards are prone to behavior so aggressive that they often wind up killing their potential mates.  Females are known for, whether intentionally or accidentally, killing their cubs shortly after they're born.) 

The National Zoo's cubs represented the first successful breeding of clouded leopards in any North American zoo in six years. Their parents, Hannibal and Jao Chu, were one of two breeding pairs imported from Thailand last year.  The other breeding pair went to the Nashville Zoo, where three cubs were born May 30!

The cubs -- two males and one female -- are in good health, as are their parents, Jing Jai and Arun.  Like the National Zoo's clouded leopard cubs, they are being hand-raised by keepers rather than by their  parents. Hand-raising the cubs is, in part, for their own protection. It's also expected to make things simpler down the line, when the cubs reach maturity and become part of the breeding program designed to save their species from extinction. 

"We've learned how to reduce fatal attacks by hand-raising cubs and introducing males to mates at a young age," Nashville Zoo President Rick Schwartz explained. 

Plans are already underway to introduce the Nashville Zoo's female cub to one of those born at the National Zoo (both of those are males) when she's about 6 months old.

National Zoo's clouded leopard cubs are healthy, thriving

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo credit: Jim Bartoo / Associated Press

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