Clouded Leopard Cubs Make History at Nashville Zoo

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The first Clouded Leopard to be born from artificial insemination using frozen/thawed semen has given birth to two cubs at the Nashville Zoo.

The two-year-old female, Niran, gave birth with no complications. “We’ve really made history with Niran,” said Dr. Heather Robertson, Nashville Zoo Director of Veterinary Services.

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47434272392_4bbf2d317c_kPhoto Credit: Nashville Zoo

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The newest cubs weigh about 187 and 192 grams each. After two-year-old Niran gave birth, the zoo’s veterinary team removed the cubs to hand rear. The veterinary staff typically hand raises Clouded Leopard cubs because the mothers often neglect their offspring. Hand rearing also lowers animal stress for future hands-on care.

With the addition of these cubs, the zoo is now home to eight Clouded Leopards.

Nashville Zoo has been working with these cats since 1987 and has welcomed 34 cubs since 2009. There are currently 69 Clouded Leopards in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ care and 292 in facilities globally. 

Niran and one-year-old Ron, the father, are living behind the scenes, and the cubs will be placed in the HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center neonatal animal care room within a week. The cubs will stay at Nashville Zoo for now with plans to eventually introduce them to a potential mate at another zoo.

Nashville Zoo is part of the Clouded Leopard Consortium and also part of the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan®. Dr. Robertson is the nationwide vet advisor for this species. Much of the information known about this species is because of the collaboration between Nashville Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Thailand and The Zoological Parks Organization of Thailand.

Clouded Leopards are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  They are protected in much of their range, which spans from the Himalayan foothills to Southeast Asia, but enforcement of those protections is weak. Precise data on Clouded Leopard population numbers in the wild is not known. The reduced number of pelts encountered at markets and reduced sightings of Clouded Leopards by people within its range suggest the species is in decline.

See more photos of Niran’s cubs below.

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