Clouded leopard cubs debut at Nashville Zoo

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September 4, 2009

Leopard cubs frolic only until November

By Nancy DeVille

Three clouded leopard cubs will make their public debut Friday at the Nashville Zoo.

The genetically valuable cubs, two male and a female, were born in May and were kept in a secluded area while being hand-raised by zookeepers. Visitors can now spot the trio at the zoo’s Critter Encounters area until around November, when the weather gets cool.

Mother Jing Jai and her mate, Arun, were imported from Thailand to the Nashville Zoo in 2008 as part of a worldwide conservation effort to save the species from extinction.

At 3 months old, the cubs are full of energy and play rough with each other, with lots of biting and climbing, zoo officials said.

“This is a very important stage for the cubs, as they are beginning to become clouded leopards,” said Karen Rice, mammal curator at Nashville Zoo. “This behavior will continue for several months, and Critter Encounters will be a great place for guests to see this interaction.”

Because of deforestation, clouded leopards are endangered. Since 2002, Nashville Zoo has been a partner in the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium, working other organizations to develop a multi-faceted conservation program.

The cubs’ parents, Arun and Jing Jai, were one of two pairs of clouded leopards that came to the U.S. in 2008 as part of the Consortium’s effort to create genetic diversity among the species. Earlier this year, a female gave birth to two males at the National Zoo National Zoo’s Conservation & Research Center in Front Royal, Va. Their birth, along with the three cubs’ birth at Nashville Zoo, introduced new genes into the American population for the first time in 20 years.

“The birth of these cubs is important because they represent renewed success of their species’ survival,” said Jim Bartoo, spokesman for the Nashville Zoo.

“Clouded leopards have been difficult to breed in captivity, and they are disappearing at an alarming rate in the wild.”

Around the first of the year, the female cub will be sent to National Zoo to meet and it is hoped mate with one of the male cubs born there, Bartoo said.

“Folks should come see our cubs soon because they will only be here until about November,” he said


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