Endangered Clouded Leopard Cubs Born At Naples Zoo

The Naples Zoo in Naples, Florida, has just welcomed two new clouded leopard cubs. Tika, a three-year-old first-time mother, gave birth to the first cub last Friday at 7:49 a.m., and the second cub at 8:32 a.m.. The new cubs are both female, with the first one weighing in at 262 grams and the second at 244 grams.

The clouded leopard, native to southeast Asia and the eastern Himalayas, is currently an endangered species as a result of poaching and habitat loss. Since they tend to be elusive, their exact numbers are unknown. They are legally protected from hunting in most countries, although wildlife laws are rarely enforced. They are also featured on restaurant menus in Thailand and China that cater to wealthy Asian tourists.

The cubs in Naples were born with their eyes and ears closed, but they usually open within 10 to 14 days. The cubs are being bottle-fed and will be hand-reared by the zoo’s animal care staff in order to ensure the best results in terms of their health and wellbeing.

The cubs, who won’t be exhibited at the zoo, have yet to be named, but the zoo is expected to announce their names this week. The mother and father of the cubs were purposely matched by the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) based on their ancestry, in order to create the greatest genetic diversity in the population over the next century. The clouded leopards, Tika and Masala, arrived in Naples in September of 2016 from two different locations to contribute to the preservation of the species.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Zoo is actively partnering with zoos around the world to develop breeding programs and field monitoring projects for clouded leopards in Thailand. The Clouded Leopard Consortium, based at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in conjunction with the Thailand Zoological Parks Organization (ZPO), Nashville Zoo, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Program, contributes to coordinating and funding the conservation efforts.

At the Nashville Zoo, more than 32 clouded leopard cubs have been born since 2009. All of their clouded leopard cubs are reared by hand in order to prevent parental predation and enable the characteristically nervous species to adjust to the sights and sounds of human interaction in zoos.

RELATED: Rare African Black Leopard Photographed For First Time In 100 Years

Hand-rearing also allows the zoo to match cubs at an early age. Adult male clouded leopards can be aggressive to potential mates to the point of severe injury and even death. Research shows that pairing at an early age considerably reduces aggression and allows for more fruitful breeding pairs.

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