Nashville Zoo officials announced Wednesday the exotic wildlife park recently welcomed two litters of endangered clouded leopards.
On Saturday, March 19, Jing Jai, one of the zoo’s two breeding female clouded leopards, gave birth to three cubs. One cub died shortly after birth. On Tuesday, March 22, Lom Choy, the other breeding female, gave birth to a single male cub. Weighing about a half-pound each, the cubs are healthy and being hand-raised together by zoo keepers, the zoo said.
Clouded leopards are seriously endangered because of deforestation, poaching and the pet trade.
Since 2002, Nashville Zoo has been a member of the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium, an ongoing collaboration with the National Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo, Clouded Leopard Species Survival Program, Zoological Park Organization in Thailand and HKS Design and Consultants International to develop a multi-faceted clouded leopard conservation program that includes a viable self-sustaining breeding program.
Introducing clouded leopards to potential mates is difficult due to the cat’s reclusive disposition. Male clouded leopards are often aggressive and have been known to attack and kill potential female partners. To reduce fatal attacks, cubs are hand-raised and introduced to mates at a young age.
At 5 years old, this is Jing Jai’s third litter. Both she and her mate Arun came from the Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Chonburi, Thailand, in 2008 as part of the consortium’s effort to save the species from extinction. This is the first birth for 2-year-old Lom Choy and her mate Luk. Lom Choy was imported from Thailand in spring 2010, and introduced to Luk, one of three cubs born to Jing Jai and Arun at Nashville Zoo in 2009.
Clouded leopards are native to the dense forests of Southeast Asia and parts of China. They grow to about five feet long (half of that is tail) and weigh 30 to 50 pounds. With short legs, large paws and a long tail, clouded leopards are well adapted to spend much of their time high in trees.