Of course there are zoos out there that give the good ones a bad name. But there are many zoos across the country that deeply care about animals and work overtime to preserve and protect them. The clouded leopard is a “highly endangered” big cat species that is facing extinction. And they desperately need our help and support.
Since 2008, this big cat species has been listed on the on the IUCN Red List. They’re characterized by their smaller size, and of course, magnificently swirled and spotted coat. These cats are native to the Himalayan foothills through mainland Southeast Asia into southern China. And sadly, there numbers have dwindled radically over the past few decades.
I’ve had the opportunity to see one of these beautiful cats before at the Houston Zoo, and they are a sight to behold. They are much smaller than most big cats, only weighing anywhere between 30-50 pounds at maturity.
This past February, the world was gifted with two more clouded leopard cubs at the Miami Zoo. And it warms my heart to know that these kittens are being given the proper respect to bond with their mother and are not removed from her care.
Zoo Miami shared the news this week on their Instagram about the birth of these two happy and healthy clouded leopard kittens:
Zoo Miami is excited to announce the successful births of highly endangered clouded leopards. The two kittens were born on February 11 and have been secluded in a den with their mother since then to avoid any external stress and allow proper bonding.
The mother, “Serai,” was born on May of 2011 at the Smithsonian’s Conservation and Research Center in Virginia and the father, named “Rajasi,” was born in March of 2011 at the Nashville Zoo in Tennessee. This is the second successful litter for both parents. Zoo staff was able to separate the mother from her kittens to do an initial neonatal exam on February 26 in order to evaluate the condition of the kittens and accurately determine their sexes. It was confirmed at that time that the litter consisted of one male and one female. Since that time, the kittens have continued to develop well while remaining in seclusion with their mother.
Today, they were once again separated to receive their initial vaccines and to confirm that they are developing well. Both offspring appear to be thriving and the mother continues to be attentive and nursing them on a regular basis. With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent revelation that a tiger had contracted the disease at another zoological facility, extra care is being taken by all staff working around these kittens. New procedures include stepping into disinfecting footbaths prior to entering any feline area as well as using masks and gloves while working in those areas.
Clouded Leopards are a very secretive cat found in forests within Southern China, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Adults usually weigh between 30 and 50 pounds and they have a very long tail with relatively short legs and large paws to facilitate their frequent arboreal lifestyle. Their diet includes a variety of birds and mammals including monkeys, deer, and porcupines. Clouded leopards have the longest canine teeth relative to their size of any wild cat. They are highly endangered over most of their range due to hunting for their attractive pelts which have ceremonial value in a variety of cultures.
I’d like to give a special thank you to wildlife photographer and passionate conservationist Ron Magill for taking these truly remarkable photos. If you’d like to see more of his incredible work, you can do so here. These images of the kittens are simply too precious.