DENVER (CBS4)– The Denver Zoo is getting yet another clouded leopard cub. The female was brought to the zoo this weekend to encourage successful breeding later in life.
She was born April 10 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, a veterinary and reproductive research center headquartered in Front Royal, Virginia.
The yet unnamed cub arrived at the zoo on Saturday on a Frontier Airlines flight accompanied by a Denver Zoo keeper and staff member.
The cub will be introduced to the zoo’s current clouded leopard cubs, Pi, a male, and Rhu, a female, in the zoo’s Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit in the near future.
“This move is critically important to ensuring the long term success of this species. Through collaborative research between the SCBI’s Dr. Jo Gayle Howard, Nashville Zoo and scientists in Thailand, we have learned that cubs must socialize with other cubs at an early age in order to be receptive to breeding as adults. With few cubs in zoos this is a very important step to ensuring a stable long-term population,” says Denver Zoo’s Assistant Curator of Toyota Elephant Passage Rebecca McCloskey.
The new cub arrived at Denver Zoo through a recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. It is not yet determined if the cub will be matched to breed with Pi as adults. At the moment, zookeepers merely want to socialize her with other young members of her species. It is not known how long any of the three cubs will remain at Denver Zoo.
Pi and Rhu were born on March 14. Unfortunately, their inexperienced mother was not able to care for them so they are being raised by staff around the clock. They began their lives in an incubator, but have graduated to a “whelping box” inside the Marynelle Philpott Fishing Cat Lagoon, within the El Pomar Foundation Village Hall. The box provides the cubs with a safe place to learn to walk, crawl, wrestle, and play until they have grown enough to have full access to the exhibit.
Despite their name, clouded leopards are not actually a species of leopard. Because they are so unique they are placed in their own genus, Neofelis, which is a combination of Greek and Latin words meaning “new cat.” They are considered a “bridge” between typical big cats, like lions and tigers, and the small cats, like pumas, lynx and ocelots. Their body lengths can range from about two to almost four feet long and they can weigh between 24 and 50 pounds. Their tawny coats with distinctive “cloud-shaped” dark blotches provide excellent camouflage in their forest habitat, enabling them to stalk prey and also hide from potential predators.