Nashville Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a clouded leopard on September 7 weighing in at just under a half pound and about 8 inches long. The cub is the second litter for mated pair Niran (female) and Ron (male) and the 43rd cub born at Nashville Zoo since 2009. The new cub is currently living behind the scenes and can be seen in the coming weeks at the Zoo’s HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center.
In August, Nashville Zoo received a male cub from the Oklahoma City Zoo along with two females from a private source. As a national leader in clouded leopard breeding and care, Nashville Zoo was chosen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP®) to oversee the upbringing and eventual pairing of all four cubs. The Clouded Leopard SSP® helps to ensure genetically diverse populations of this species in human care. These cubs can be seen in the nursery at the Veterinary Center and online through our nursery camera.
"We are thrilled to introduce these genetically diverse cubs to each other early in their lives," said Nashville Zoo's Director of Veterinary Services Heather Schwartz. "They will stay in the nursery until they are old enough to be paired and moved to larger habitats here at the Zoo."
Nashville Zoo has been breeding and raising clouded leopard since 1991 and, in that time, learned that hand-raising allows this normally nervous species to become acclimated to the sights and sounds of human interaction, typical in an exhibit environment. As a result of Nashville Zoo's knowledge on clouded leopards, the AZA's SSP now recommends hand rearing for all cubs of this species. Additionally, hand-raising allows the Zoo to introduce the cubs at a very early age.
"Clouded leopard males can be very aggressive when they are introduced to females," says Nashville Zoo President and CEO Rick Schwartz. "This can cause serious, even lethal injury to the females. Allowing the cubs to grow up together lowers aggression and increases the chance of successful mating."
Clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) are native to the tropical lowlands of Southeast Asia in countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh. They are considered vulnerable to extinction according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to deforestation, poaching and pet trade. Precise data on clouded leopard population numbers is not known, but researchers estimate there are around 10,000 clouded leopards in the wild. Specific populations can be difficult to track, as the clouded leopard is among the rarest of the world’s cat species and one of the most elusive. The reduced number of pelts encountered at illegal markets and reduced sightings of clouded leopards by people within its range suggest the species is in decline.
About Nashville Zoo
Nashville Zoo is a nonprofit organization celebrating and an accredited member of the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums, exemplifying the highest standards of animal care and husbandry. Nashville Zoo is actively engaged in conservation research, habitat protection, breeding programs, and education initiatives in our backyard as well as around the world. With support from the Nashville community, donors, and sponsors, the Zoo is ranked the number one tourist attraction in Middle Tennessee and welcomes more than one million guests annually. Nashville Zoo is located at 3777 Nolensville Pike just six miles south of downtown. For more information about Nashville Zoo, visit nashvillezoo.org.